Memorandum or memo writing is discussed in-depth in a different post. The purpose of this article is, thus, to show with examples some of the key components and sections one ought to include in a memo.

The example below focuses on the topic "Explosion of Dirty Bomb in Washington, DC":


On Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. a school bus that had been parked at Capitol Hill and close to the National Gallery exploded causing massive damage. The explosion has been identified as a dirty bomb, a Radiological Dispersion Bomb (RDB), containing an approximated 1000 curies of Cesium-137. For RDB to explode, there must be a combination of radioactive materials and other conventional explosives. Even though it does not cause a nuclear fission reaction like a nuclear weapon, the dispersed radioactive materials have long-term effects that are detrimental to an individual’s health and the environment.


Research indicates that radiation generated by radioactive materials can damage the kidney, liver, thyroid, and bones. Consequently, the radiation expose individuals to an increased risk of developing cancer. The explosion also leads to the generation of dust and debris containing radioactive material and the development of an invisible radioactive plume that can spread within a radius of half-mile to a mile thus affecting all the individuals within the approximated area as well as contaminating water and food. Also, dust and developed radioactive plume, depending on weather conditions, can be spread to other locations miles away. This contamination is likely to exceed safety measures as stipulated in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety guidelines.


Upon this kind of explosion, the area should be quarantined followed by immediate evacuation and decontamination process which should be done prudently to avoid further spread of the radioactive materials. Responders, medical personnel, and other members of the rescue teams should wear proper protective gear before entering the scene. Similarly, to deter further contamination, EPA recommends that an extensive muck and truck should be carried out on all the buildings and grounds within a one-mile radius. The Wednesday explosion caused several deaths including the death of the Senate leader of the majority, many other individuals were injured, and the rest of Washington DC residents are in panic mode. Physical damages include collapsed National Gallery of Art, the damaged west front of Capitol Hill, the collapse of a number of businesses and residential home buildings, and several burnt cars. 


Washington DC and the entire country have been engulfed with fear due to an RDB which exploded on Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. leading to massive loss of lives and injuries, collapse of buildings and disruption of normal activities in the city. Consequently, since the occurrence of this incidincidentence, there other emerging series of circumstances militating against the management of the disaster. This leads to the question, what actions should be taken by the leadership to contain the situation and restore normalcy? 

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  • Mayor’s Action: Declaration of a state of emergency 

State of emergence refers to the situation whereby the governing authority of a particular geographical area suspends normal constitutional processes to obtain more powers to control a situation such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. The District of Colombia’s laws permits the mayor to declare a state of emergency whenever the need arises. Declaration of a state of emergency will ensure that the spread of radioactive materials is effectively managed since the mobility of individuals will be limited. Also, it will enhance the decontamination process as well as the proper screening of any suspected individuals within the location of the incident to nab explosion culprits.


Consequently, the state of emergency will enable other actions such as conscription of the citizens and other professionals to assist in managing the situation and government personnel can enter any house without a warrant to evacuate individuals and rescue the victims. Also, the mayor can call out the States National Guard Unit to assist in crowd control and to assist in the establishment of emergency shelters for decontamination processes, and the distribution of Radioburnase, a drug used to treat radioactive burns.


Some of the legal issues that may need to be addressed are the application of police powers as stipulated under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Due to few restrictions perpetuated by the vague definition of police powers, there is a risk of infringing individual rights and the eruption of more chaos. However, police and army personnel will be urged to apply reasonable force. 

  • Actions that should be taken by Federal Officials 

The federal government plays a pivotal role in assisting local governments and communities to respond and manage a disasters or any other crises through actions permitted by powers given to them by the constitution. Similarly, there are actions that should be taken by federal officials to manage the RDB explosion incident. First, due to the complexity of the evacuation and decontamination process, there is a need for deploying troops to the scene. The 2006 amendment of the Insurrection Act of 1807 permits the president to order the deployment of troops when a disaster, terrorist attack, or epidemic occurs and the state is incapacitated in handling the situation.


Secondly, radioactive materials causes severe effects on the health of individuals as well as contaminating food and water in the area and other neighboring areas. Therefore, it is on this basis that section 319 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act gives the secretary of Health and Human Services powers to declare a public health emergency. The PHS Act stipulates that an emergency should be declared during significant outbreaks of highly infectious disease or a bioterrorist attack such as RDB. Upon declaration of emergency, the secretary is required by the law to notify the congress, the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Justice within 48 hours.


Thirdly, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s founding principle is to protect American citizens from any form of a terrorist attack. Upon attack, DHS should ensure that perpetrators of the terrorist attack are apprehended. Therefore, the DHS secretary’s initial actions are to ensure that all individuals within the area of attack are adequately screened so that any terrorist within the area does not get away.


The DHS secretary has been given powers by the Homeland Security Act of 2002, in liaison with the office of the president under the Presidential Military Order, to ensure that suspects are detained for further investigations without a specified period. However, some of the legal consequences that are likely to ensure are that some individuals will try to secure the release of the apprehended suspects through the petition of habeas corpus but the Military Commission Act of 2006 will justify and uphold actions taken by the DHS’s secretary. 

  • The Situation at the Hospital 

There is also a situation in most of DC’s hospital emergency rooms. The number of victims has surpassed the capacity of the available emergency rooms. The situation is worsening because these hospitals are lacking enough special equipment for treating RDB’s radiation burns. Consequently, there is a shortage of medical personnel due to an increasing number of victims seeking health care services in these facilities. Also, a few medical personnel in the hospital have refused to offer their services due to a lack of proper protective gear.


Despite the lack of capacity to accommodate more victims seeking medical treatment, hospital emergency rooms cannot be closed to new patients. This is because it will be a violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1986 which compels hospital Emergency Departments to provide individuals with proper medical screening examination (MSE) without any form of discrimination. However, the government can take over these hospitals, both private and public, and use deployed troops and the United States National Guard personnel to manage the situation.


This option has been provided for in the National Emergencies Act (NEA) of 1976 whereby with the declaration of the state of emergency the government can seize any property or equipment than can promote disaster management efforts. NEA will also enable the government to set up makeshift emergency treatment shelters. These shelters will be established within the hospitals as well as outside the hospital but within one mile or half-a-mile radius to deter the further spread of the radioactive materials carried along by victims.


Consequently, with the declaration of the state of emergency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under DHS, which has been mandated through the Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996 to respond to terrorist attacks, will come in. Trained FEMA Corps will partially solve the problem of medical staff shortage. Consequently, to curb the shortage of medical personnel, some physicians and nurses from Delaware and Pennsylvania have arrived to volunteer.


Subsequently, there is a need to urge more medical personnel from other states to come in as volunteers as their safety and well-being have been provided for by the Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) of 1997. As for the case of workers who are refusing to provide care due to safety concerns, although they are protected by federal laws under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970, NEA stipulates that they can be conscripted to work. 

  • Law and Ethics 

There reports that high-ranking government officials comprising Members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, and the White House and Supreme Court staff have undergone a complete decontamination process. Consequently, thousands of Radioburnase doses, a drug used to purge cesium contamination from the body has been shipped in from the Strategic National Stockpile.


Radioburnase is effective if it is administered within four hours of exposure. Reports further indicate that approximately 550 doses of Radioburnase have been set aside for Congress Members and Justices. White House staff members have also begun to receive their treatment to counter the effects of radioactive burns. However, over 3,000 employees of the Supreme Court and Congress have been told to wait for their dose. Similarly, thousands of victims are unable to access Radioburnase before the four hours are over.


With reports indicating that the treatment is administered discretionally, serious concerns are likely to be raised. Therefore, to avoid any form of discretion or bias in treatment administration, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) principles should govern the distribution of Radioburnase. OCHA’s four principles include; the principle of humanity which holds that human suffering should be addressed to protect the health, life, and respect.


The principle of neutrality which argues that assistance should be accorded without taking any sides. The principle of impartiality which urges humanitarian actors to act without making any form of distinctions amongst the recipients of the humanitarian assistance. Lastly, the principle of Independence which promotes the autonomy of humanitarian action by cushioning it from socio-economic, political, and military influences. To ensure that the response to the incident is coherent and there is seamless coordination of activities, these principles should be adhered to. 

  • Impeding Concerns 

Among other concerns that are likely to emerge include; questioning the decision by the hospital to release a list of the patients it had treated. The first individual on the list was the first responder who had refused to provide care due to a lack of the required protective gear. Also, the police and media have reported that there was a man who was driving his friends who had been injured by the blast and due to panic and rush he caused an accident that involved multiple cars killing other two individuals. There is a likelihood that the identified man will be sued and he might end up losing his home. 


The number of individuals making calls to hospitals in DC to inquire about their loved ones is increasing and considering the situation as well as personnel shortage the hospitals were compelled to release a list of all the victims who had been admitted or already treated. This was necessary as the American public is entitled to access full or partial information as provided for in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1946 and its subsequent amendments which include the FOIA improvement Act of 2016.


Consequently, there are speculations whether the man who had been fired has any legal ground to be reinstated. It is important to note that even though NEA allows the federal government to conscript individuals to contribute towards efforts aiming to contain a disaster, the government had not provided him with the necessary protective gear as stipulated in the U.S. 1970’s OSHA. Therefore, the man should be reinstated.


If sued, the man who caused the accident that killed two people can have a legal defense. This is because most states, including DC, recognizes the sudden medical emergency defense. Although he had caused the accident, he can be relieved from liability because he had not acted negligently. The whole state was in a panic mode as everyone was trying to flee the area hence creating confusion. The man was surrounded by circumstances that he did not have control over. However, the man will need to have a strong legal defense team that can help him to present his case. 


An RDB explosion is in the same category as a bioterrorism attack. The explosion is accompanied by the dispersion of radioactive materials which can spread rapidly within a radius of one mile. However, depending on the weather conditions, developed invisible radioactive plumes can spread radioactive materials to other parts of the state miles away. Radioactive materials are detrimental to health. These materials can damage the liver, kidney, bones, and skin as well as exposure of individuals to cancer.

Its impact on the environment is equally severe and can lead to contamination of food and water. Affected individuals are required to undergo proper decontamination process and administered with Radioburnase within four hours. All buildings should be bucked and trucked with immediate effect. However, it is difficult to manage the disaster under normal circumstances, therefore, I strongly recommend a state of emergency to be declared as stipulated under NEA.

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