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NEWS | Aug. 24, 2020

Michigan Guard CST, fire department conduct HAZMAT training

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker Michigan National Guard

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard’s 51st Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Civil Support Team (CST) trained with the Grand Rapids Fire Department (GRFD) and hazardous materials firefighters.

The combined training Aug. 12 was initiated and sponsored by the 51st WMD-CST to strengthen its relationship with emergency services providers in Michigan. It was also an opportunity to enhance the emergency HAZMAT response capabilities of the GRFD.

“Our partnerships with first responders expand the capability to support communities that could be threatened by overwhelming hazardous materials,” said Michigan Air National Guard Lt. Col. Kelly Black, commander of the 51st WMD-CST based at Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta. “Communities such as Grand Rapids have solid HAZMAT firefighter capabilities, but typically, resources only go so far though, and the 51st CST has additional resources that can benefit the Grand Rapids community.”

The combined training included decontamination procedures for responders coming out of a potentially contaminated environment and the emergency extraction of a responder in a HAZMAT ensemble, medical response and evacuation.

“If someone on-scene is injured while wearing a fire-protective HAZMAT suit, they must be efficiently extracted, decontaminated and medically treated,” said Black.

During one of the scenarios, HAZMAT firefighters arrived first and faced chemical hazards beyond the ordinary and reacted accordingly.

“Recognizing that the scale was out of proportion, they quickly took photos of the concern and contacted the CST,” said Black. “They also checked the area for other hazards and worked with police to set up a boundary to keep the public away from the potential danger.”

“While en route, the CST began reviewing the photos and planning with the firefighters, and once we arrived, the CST expanded the fire department’s first-responder decontamination area,” said Black.

During the training, the different organizations paired up to bring real-world training scenarios.

In one training simulation, a team member became incapacitated due to contact with a suspected HAZMAT or WMD agent. There was also training on removing an unconscious responder from their HAZMAT suit.

“In addition to performing HAZMAT crisis mitigation and decontamination procedures, the medical team was able to provide the GRFD first responders with guidance and hands-on training regarding the medical aspects of HAZMAT operations,” said Army Capt. Kevin Ferrell, physician assistant, 51st WMD-CST medical officer, Michigan Army National Guard.

The medical team included Ferrell, an emergency medicine physician assistant, and a medical noncommissioned officer.

“Our mission as a WMD-CST is not only to respond in times of need, but to continually garner those community relationships that build trust and cooperation between our emergency responders and us,” Ferrell said. “Today was a great example of that.”

The CST is one of the 57 WDM-CSTs in the National Guard, located in every state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. They support civil authorities by identifying HAZMAT agents and substances and advising on response measures.

“The cooperative training and response-practice between HAZMAT firefighters, police and the CST are a sterling example of solid partnerships to protect communities,” said Black.



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