NDRF moots unit to tackle chemical, biohazards at KIA

The NDRF has proposed to set up a unit near the BSF subsidiary training centre in Yelahanka to tackle chemical/biological hazards at the Kempegowda International Airport. DH FILE PHOTO

 How quickly can the nearest National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) battalion reach the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) here if a chemical/biological hazard breaks out? Six critical hours, as the battalion with 1,200 men is over 600 km away in Guntur. 

To reduce this dangerously long transit time, the NDRF has proposed to set up a unit near the Border Security Force (BSF) subsidiary training centre in Yelahanka. An existing unit in the city has fewer than 100 personnel and is ill-equipped to handle a mega-scale incident at the airport. 

But there is no reason to panic for now as the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) has a mutual agreement with the Indian Air Force (IAF), its station in Yelahanka well-equipped with its own disaster response system, says a BIAL spokesperson. 

Yet, no airport can take chances as a hazardous chemical leakage could unleash its deadly effect in minutes if not seconds. "There are toxic materials so deadly that a 50 ml bottle can kill a thousand people. But airports are relatively safe from such scenarios," notes Dr Kunal Sharma, an expert from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). 

This is precisely why quick response matters, and how an airport handles a hazard emergency in the golden first hour can make all the difference. The NDMA on Monday kicked off a six-day basic training programme to enhance the preparedness of Airport Emergency Handlers to respond to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) emergencies. 

Over 50 personnel from the city airport's operations and maintenance section are part of the programme. On the trainers' list are experts from the Department of Atomic Energy, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority, the NDRF, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). 

Initiated in 2017, the NDMA CBRN emergency management programme has been rolled out for 12 critical airports in India. Over 500 personnel from Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Varanasi, Patna, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and Raipur airports have already been trained in these specialised skills. 

The training programme will conclude with a mock drill at the KIA on Saturday, coupled with sensitisation of over 200 airport staff.

Limit all liquids on flights, perfumes too: NDMA

There are 6.5 lakh types of chemicals worldwide. Airport personnel should know what is hazardous and what is not. The best way would be to restrict even 100 ml perfumes on flights, says an official of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). 

At airports, even a small leakage can trigger huge problems, the official notes. "The best way is to update the database of these chemical materials. The Material Safety Data Sheet is readily available on the internet," he informs. 

The Instant Response System (IRS) at the airport can then take out the hazardous material, whether at the cargo or civilian terminal. 

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NDRF moots unit to tackle chemical, biohazards at KIA

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