Nuking Our Money

It’s OK, I’m protected!

Over the last month or so all front line staff have been issued with their own EPD (electronic personal dosemeter); another UPC with a TLA that’s a LOB* Training consisted of how to put the battery in and the fact that it will start beeping and flashing when I’m in a ‘hot’ zone. For the lucky ones you can even nick request a swishy case to hang off your belt, otherwise you have to clip it on (which means it falls off every time you sit down). Personally I’d rather have a BP cuff that works, a thermometer or even a couple of new uniform shirts.

I’m reliably informed, by those that are supposed to know, that it has a wide coverage area of……well….. about a foot. So no advanced warning then. You know you’ve been nuked when the red light starts flashing and the machine starts beeping like a demented doorbell. Wonderful! So at least I’ll know that I have only 10 days to live which will be proceeded by my hair falling out and my skin glowing a sensuous shade of fluorescent green. On reflection I think it might be better not to know. Must make sure my will is sorted and the mortgage is up to date.

These things cost about £50 each so that’s roughly £50,000 to kit out my county and probably about £1.8 million (romswag**) to issue these to all frontline ambulance staff around the country. I’m sure Wat Tyler would be able to advise.

Presumably some bean-counters up in Whitehall have completed a cost-benefit study on these things and have concluded that, despite the lamentable state of finances in the NHS, the chances of me getting nuked whilst picking granny up off the floor are worth the cost of closing a hospital ward somewhere. Sadly, the ‘benefits‘ of having one of these things dangling off my belt all shift, have not been passed on to the managers responsible for issuing them. “What do I need one of these for?” is a common question. “In case you have to go into a radioactive zone.” is the helpful response. So, rather than identify the positive aspects of wearing these, a number of notices have gone up around the county along the lines of:

Now that all staff have been issued with their own EPD these will be worn at all times whilst on duty. Any member of staff found without their EPD will be disciplined.

Excellent. That really helps. More management by bullying.

Interestingly these things weigh only 4oz but when you undo the belt on your trousers the weight is enough to drag the belt out the loop and the ‘dozy’meter crashes to the floor. The girls on station have been speculating as to how long it will be before someone drops one down the loo!

*useless piece of crap with a three letter acronym that’s a load of bollox.
**romswag: rough order of magnitude, shitty wild ass guess


8 Responses to Nuking Our Money

  1. ash says:

    soon you’ll all have batman style utility belts like wot the coppers have!

  2. Scientist says:

    I know this is a rant, and you don’t actually mean all you say. But I feel bound to fact-check you. Sorry.

    “I’m reliably informed…that it has a wide coverage area of……well….. about a foot.”

    It detects whatever X-ray, gamma or beta radiation is irradiating it…and therefore you, if you are wearing it. It doesn’t have a ‘range’ per se. The further you get from a source, the lower the dose will be (how much it decreases depends on what it’s coming from). Whether it triggers or not depends on what dose it receives, which depends on what is irradiating it, how much of the radioactive substance there is, and how far away you are from it.

    “You know you’ve been nuked when the red light starts flashing…so at least I’ll know that I have only 10 days to live”

    The only way you are going to get a lethal dose in less time than you have to get out is if you are in a situation like Chernobyl, where the radiation level increases massivley in a very short period of time. Radiation damage is basically cumulative, so if it beeps and you get out quickly, you will get very little dose. If you hang around, you will get more. And that is the benefit to you personally; you can then also warn others. And that is also why it’s set at quite a low threshold – you may find you have some nuc med patients setting it off.

    “which will be proceeded by my hair falling out and my skin glowing a sensuous shade of fluorescent green.”

    I’m not going to go into the unpleasant symptoms of acute radiation sickness, except to say they don’t include either epilation or changes in skin colour!. But that isn’t your main hazard anyway – you should be more concerned about the risk of cancer. The legal dose limits set out for employees are based on international recommendations designed to make working with ionising radiation no more dangerous than most other occupations. That is the main motivation to have EPDs – although I’m sure there is a bit of canary in there too.

    “These things cost about £50 each”

    More than that I’m afraid. I make no comment on the economic justification for kitting you out.

    “Training consisted of how to put the battery in and the fact that it will start beeping and flashing when I’m in a ‘hot’ zone.”

    And that is the problem. We couldn’t believe they were giving them out without training. So we are offering it anyway. Of course, chances are you will have forgotten any training by the time it actually beeps. And there is no money to make sure the things are calibrated regularly, so who knows what they are actually measuring.

    Sorry for the long comment, but as a radiation protection type it worries me that people carrying radiation meters don’t really understand them. My advice – if it goes off, and you can leave, do. And then get the police to implement NAIR to get someone who knows a bit about radiation on scene.

  3. ecparamedic says:

    Interesting post Scientist!

    Mag was lucky getting instruction on where to put the battery, ours just arrived in envelopes and we were left to get on with it. I think gut reaction will take over from training (?) if the damn thing starts bleeping faster than the duff battery alarm.

    Somewhere behind us the chemical team (the ‘Canaries’) will be running around trying to find something big enough with a towbar to pull the decon trailer (the 4×4 has been ‘borrowed’ and they have just gotten rid of our Station Officer in the recent ‘modernisation’).

    Ash…… with the dosimeter, MDT pager, area pager and scissor pouch we already need a ‘Tackleberry’.

    😉 SD

  4. BananaHammock says:

    I also have one, which now lives in my locker on station… That’s where it shall remain, until management notice that I’m not wearing it. For two reasons.

    1. Every time it goes of going throught the security area in Tesco, everyone looks at me like I’m a criminal; and
    2. If, in the highly unlikely event of weapons-grade nuclear material being stored underneath the bed of a ageing terrorist with a fractured neck of femur, the likelihood of me making a particularly good excuse to leave the area is remote. This means I shall then suddenly find myself held hostage at gunpoint, or dead. Therefore, the chances of getting out alive are even more remote.

    So, I thank the idiotic money-wasting schemes of government ministers, for effectively wasting the money that could have kept a hospital open for the best part of a fortnight longer.

    BananaHammock :o)

    (I also have an issue with the order of words, and think it should be a PED…but that’s just getting silly about the whole thing…)

  5. H1GHW4YM4N says:

    I think that it goes deeper than personal protection. If a terrorist is going to use a weapons grade nuclear device, it’s unlikely that shielding will be used; therefore that person may become ill and then need medical attention.

    Ambulance personnel are a very cheap national surveillance tool.

    Just think about how many homes/locations we wander through in our daily routines. As mentioned before the EPD registers the cumulative dose and alarms at a “safe” level. We are then supposed to withdraw and alert authorities. Although as BananaHammock says if it goes off while your’re in the house, there is a risk of a hostage situation.

    What better form of early warning device?

    It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a satellite transponder in there too!

    Not that I’m paranoid or anything!

    BananaHammock: I’ve got an issue with the order of words too, you’re not me are you?

  6. ecparamedic says:

    Out of interest, what are your monitors showng so far?

    Mine has 101 counts on it at the moment, wonder if we have Radon?


  7. magwitch says:

    Scientist: thanks very much for the comment. You’ve managed to explain in a few lines what none of our so called instructors could do in an hour. At least I understand now what the ‘benefit’ of these EPDs is.
    I’m still struggling with the cost/benefit analysis for these things though. A quick survey of the staff on station showed that more than 70% of people have already stopped wearing them and just chucked them in their locker or kit bag. Thus this whole exercise just becomes a complete wast of money.
    ecparamedic and ash: there are already enough Tackleberrys in the service. One of them even has Tackleberry embroidered on his flori-jacket. You can usually spot these guys from a distance – they’re the ones who actually wear the official issue baseball caps (more waste of NHS money)
    BananaHammock: my sentiments entirely
    My ‘dozy’meter currently shows a large 17 on the screen. I have no idea what this means. Having had a quick look at the instructions I now discover that there’s a button on the back. Pressing it shows a number of different screens, 2 of which just have FFFF on them. Again no idea what this is all about. It just seems so pointless issuing me with a bit of kit that I don’t know how to use and which I don’t understand why I have it. Mine is going back to where I just dug it out from – my kit bag.

  8. ecparamedic says:

    You’ve got staff who wear the baseball caps? My kids wouldn’t even wear those when they were small!

    My meter is now up to 120. Incidentally I think ‘FFFFFFFFFF’ is shorthand for what goes through your mind when the fast bleep starts.

    SD 😉

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