I recently read an article by Gary Ludwig in Firehouse Magazine (Aug 2008, page 38) about how Al Qaeda is using stolen ambulances as car bombs in Iraq. There have been several such instances since 2002. How long before the first incident happens here?
How hard would it be for them to go on eBay and find a used ambulance? There are plenty available on ebay and elsewhere. All they need is a couple of generic "paramedic" uniforms and they're all set!
Fire and EMS crews need to be alert for suspicious activity, such as people videotaping your vehicles responding to calls, asking how ambulances operate, when to use lights and sirens, etc. I'm not suggesting that everyone who shows interest in your F.D. is a terrorist, but if someone says something that sets off alarm bells in your head there's nothing wrong with having the P.D. check them out.
My reason for posting this is not to spread panic and paranoia throughout the Fire/EMS world, but to promote awareness. 9/11 was a long time ago and the war is on the other side of the world. I'm afraid that we've all become a little complacent with our awareness. My feeling is that it's only a matter of time until something happens on U.S. soil again.
You are right, I think some have become complacent and I don't think we have forgotten. But we do need to keep an eye on what happens when we are on a call and in our firehouses. There is nothing wrong with being careful and in this day and age we need to. Be Safe
I'm a paid EMS provider. Actually, I'm an intermediate EMT, and usually work with a paramedic, which makes me the driver in most cases. I have made it a habit, as a general safe practice, to lock the ambulance (with it running) every time I leave it alone.
1. Keeps my personal gear/wallet/camera safe
2. Keeps prankster coworkers out
3. Keeps one of the apparent thousands of mentally disturbed Buffalonians from joyriding in my rig
4. Keeps Al-Qaeda from driving off with it for conversion into a vehicle-borne IED.
I don't actually expect the latter to ever occur... the first three are way more likely... but it only makes sense to be safety-minded in all aspects of emergency vehicle operations, which includes protection of the vehicle itself.
In the middle east, and particularly during the Fallujah uprisings, ambulances were used as terrorist/insurgent transports, and one apparently has been used as a car bomb.
Those practices are used in a war zone where the civilian ambulances are operated by insurgents or insurgent sympathizers.
There have occasionally been a few ambulances or fire apparatus stolen by a criminal or deranged person in the U.S., but these are a) a BIG deal, b) reported immediately, and c) generally result in the person who stole the vehicle crashing it while being hotly pursued by the police. The chances of terrorists taking one of our emergency vehicles without immediately being caught are slim. Common sense will keep emergency vehicles from being stolen.
The fact is that it's simply much easier to rent a van or short-haul truck if you want to make a vehicle bomb. That was the case in both the Oklahoma City and 1993 World Trade Center bombings and the Edinburgh airport firebombing.
Used ambulances generally look like...used ambulances. If you peel the Star of Life logos, "ecnalubma" decals, etc. from ambulances before you surplus them and spray the logo spots over with dark paint, then there's very little chance that someone will take the time and effort to make them look real when a Ryder truck can hold twice the explosives with half the effort.
Seems to me this was brought up in our terrorist awareness class that was mandatory a couple years back. Imagine if someone got their hands on a tanker/tender and packed the water tank with a dirty bomb. Not a scenario I want to be responsible for.
I have to say, that after being in Iraq for a year, you really get a feel for how far they will go to even just try to do harm to other people. Many of their attacks end up being on their own people which is the crazy part of it. They would attack us with rockets and mortars fairly regularly (very regularly for about the first 5-6 months) and they would use Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices on many of the Iraqi army checkpoints. Many of the normal roadside IEDs would be what we would end up dealing with. If terrorists are willing to send their people through flight school to hijack airplanes (probably not a short process) then they will probably do just about anything. It is an "unseen enemy" as I have heard it called many times, which is probably the toughest thing to deal with when you are trying to defeat them. I didn't ever see an ambulance get used, but we had reports of it happening in other areas of operation over there. Anyway, that is just my imput.