Emergency response procedures were put to the test during a quarterly Chemical Accident Incident Response and Assistance, or CAIRA, exercise at the APG South (Edgewood) medical clinic March 23.
Teams from Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, or KUSAHC, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, known as ECBC, and fire and emergency medical responders from the Directorate of Emergency Services participated in the exercise. The exercise scenario called responders to action after two ECBC employees, Ted Moran and Jeff Forster, self-report potential contamination from a dilute chemical agent to the medical clinic.
With the Army’s CBRNE Center of Excellence located at APG South, planners said it is imperative that tenant units and emergency responders are trained to efficiently respond to chemical-related incidents. CAIRA exercises are designed to test response plans.
“Here at [KUSAHC] we are going to be evaluating how well the clinic staff responds to an employee presenting to the clinic who is potentially exposed and work through some [decontamination] procedures,” said Dr. Mark Lovell, chief of Occupational and Community Health, prior to the exercise.
KUSAHC Surety Specialist Barry Hersey said organizations take turns hosting quarterly CAIRA exercises to test their procedures in the event of an accident. The most recent exercise was the first time a response was initiated at the clinic.
“This particular exercise was hosted by ECBC [personnel] who recognized the possibility of an event occurring at the clinic. Representatives from ECBC worked with the Medical Response Team Leader/Competent Medical Authority [Dr. Carrie Dorsey, with KUSAHC] allowing the facility to exercise and improve their response procedures,” he said.
Once notified, clinic staff members immediately created an emergency operations center, or EOC, within the clinic, recorded scenario information using a computer software program called WebEOC, and coordinated with the APG EOC.
Clinic medics, Staff Sgt. Andries DeLanghe and Spc. Paul Abucher, donned personal protective equipment, or PPE, and assisted in the evaluation and rapid decontamination process.
DeLanghe and Abucher directed “patients” Moran and Forster through the decontamination shower facilities at the Edgewood clinic, observing the patients as they simulated a thorough soap and water showering. The medics were on stand-by to provide assistance or medical treatment if necessary.
After the shower, firefighter and emergency medical technician, or EMT, Erik Petersen used a hand-held chemical detector called a RAID M100, to conduct a gross level monitor test to check for adequate decontamination. The RAID M100 can identify chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals. During this procedure, Lt. Jay Bannon, with the APG Fire Department, served as a liaison, relaying information to the appropriate personnel.
Assistant Chief of Emergency Medical Services Michael Slayman, said that in the event of an emergency, APG EMTs can set up a mobile decontamination and monitoring area in about seven to 10 minutes.
Part of the exercise included a mobile decontamination area in which a Real Time Analytical Platform or RTAP, by EMTs to test for any low level residual contamination.
An after-exercise hotwash
Slayman said immediately after a CAIRA exercise, participants conduct an immediate discussion evaluating strengths and weaknesses, known as a “hotwash.” They meet again for a detailed after action review. This normally results in due-outs and additional training, he said.
“This is so we can evaluate our programs, identify any issues we have and move forward.”
Slayman said one strength of the exercise was having several subject matter experts and resources available. An area identified for improvement, he said, was communication procedures.
“This [exercise] just emphasizes that [we need to improve communication procedures], and gives us the teeth that we need to follow through and get the corrective actions in place,” he said.
Hersey said he was pleased with how the clinic staff was ready to immediately respond to an emergency.
“The clinic staff worked very well with each other,” he said. “The medics immediately began dressing in PPE to meet the casualties and escort them through the decontamination process for their medical assessment and treatment. The exercises improve communications each time they are conducted.”