Proceedings Of The Marine

SPR 2015

Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.

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Federal law has established the U.S. Coast Guard as the primary federal agency tasked with responding to oil and hazardous substance spills on the navigable waters within the U.S. coastal zone. Based on the circumstances of the report and anticipated magnitude of the incident, the captain of the port will evaluate the situation and choose appropriate response options, including: • notifying the state; • contacting the nearest USCG strike team; • engaging local law enforcement; • contacting the U.S. Army's civil support team for initial response, who would then likely engage the Army's Soldier and Biological Chemical Command and also assist the incident commander and other f rst responders; • initiating the incident command system in accordance with national policy on incident management; • contacting the Centers for Disease Control and Pre- vention; • preparing for media inquiries. Experience has demonstrated that responding to an inci- dent aggressively by quickly activating assets and notify- ing stakeholders brings a more favorable response that highlights the Coast Guard's proactive role in responding to reports of dangerous situations. Pulling back resources at a later date is always easier than trying to gradually increase the amount of resources available to respond. What is it? Mustard gas is best known as a chemical weapon primar- ily used in World War I. It is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, signed by the United States in 1993, and administered by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, Netherlands. Despite its name, the chemical is an oily liquid with a gar- licky odor and is insoluble in water. Also known as sulfur mustard, it acts as a severe blistering agent that attacks the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Exposure does not result in immediate pain or discomfort; those exposed often do not realize it until symptoms arise many hours later. Why Should I Care? Dangerous weapons that are out of sight can still cause harm. Increased f shing industry dredging also increases the risk of dredging old munitions, some of whose loca- tions are not documented. What is the Coast Guard doing about it? The Coast Guard regularly coordinates with multiple state and local agencies to prepare stakeholders to respond proactively to uncommon events, such as discovering old mustard gas canisters. Once someone in the marine environment has discovered a suspected mustard gas canister or other munition and appropriately informed the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center, Coast Guard personnel will notify the nearest USCG sector command center. 92 Proceedings Spring 2015 www.uscg.mil/proceedings Chemical of the Quarter Understanding Mustard Gas The Germans f rst used mustard gas in World War I. Other than its garlicky odor, mustard gas exposure is not notice- able at f rst; oftentimes soldiers did not know they were exposed. Dermal exposure results in skin reddening (simi- lar to sunburn) and small blisters, which may then coalesce into very large, painful, f uid-f lled blisters. The blisters take much longer to heal than normal blister wounds and may result in skin discoloration and scars. Exposure to sulfur mustard vapor results in greatest exposure to moist areas of the body, such as the armpits, groin, lungs, and eyes. During World War I, lung exposure resulted in the greatest mortality. Increasing temperatures after daybreak vaporized mustard gas from bombardment the previous night, and the soldiers would breathe it in. This damaged pulmonary tissues, preventing adequate air trans- fer, and also caused secondary infections that sometimes resulted in death (before penicillin and modern antibiotics).

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