Training for First Responders – A High ALERT Priority

March 29, 2018

On January 30th and February 1st, ALERT researcher, Dr. Jimmie Oxley (University of Rhode Island) and her students traveled to Natick, MA to lead a course and field training titled “Explosives Chemistry for Emergency Responders” for twenty-three students from the Massachusetts 1st Civil Support Team (WMD) of the National Guard and the Department of Fire Services HazMat. The purpose of this training was to familiarize the teams with improvised explosives, to drill them in recognition of a variety of threats, and to test their use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and detection instrumentation. The field training consisted of three improvised lab scenarios: 1) the drug lab of a “tweaker” who also dabbles in explosives; 2) the workshop of a disgruntled employee who has access to radioactive sources, as well as guns and ammo; 3) a terrorist cell making propaganda videos, explosives, ricin, and mustard. Participants had to decide how best to approach each scenario using their expertise, the information obtained in the class, and their issued instrumentation and PPE. According to Dr. Oxley, “This was a learning experience for both students and teachers. We, the teachers, learned real-life concerns and constraints. They, the students, learned of new potential threats and the appropriate tools in their kits for detecting them. Field training, like this, is essential for readiness at crisis time.”


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