Story 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) based out of Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, Michigan, teamed up with the Grand Rapids Fire Department (GRFD) Training Division and Schoolhouse, along with their hazardous materials (HAZMAT) fire-fighters to conduct joint training. This combined training on August 12 was initiated and sponsored by the 51st WMD-CST in order to continue strengthening its relationship with community emergency services providers within 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 Air Force Lt. Col. Kelly Black, 51st WMD-CST commander, Michigan Air National Guard. "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 CST provides a strong back-up for HAZMAT responders and together, we're able to better protect communities from potential catastrophic loss of life or property and firefighters and police are true first responders,” said Black.
The combined training included decontamination procedures for responders coming out of a potentially contaminated environment. It also included training for 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.
Man-down was one of those training simulation where a team member becomes incapacitated due to contact with a suspected HAZMAT or WMD agent. In addition to instruction in proper patient-responder decontamination procedures, the day also included training on how to perform an emergency cut-out or removal of an unconscious responder from their HAZMAT suit, also known as Level A protective gear. Overall, the training simulation proved to be very realistic and challenging for both the CST and GRFD first responders.
“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 consists of myself, an Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant, and a medical noncommissioned officer (Emergency Medical Technician) and were responsible for providing direct and immediate field care.”
“Our medical team was able to provide several demonstrations of a man-down scenario,” said Ferrell.
Building partnerships is key to mission success. The Michigan National Guard continues to conduct domestic operations to protect and defend the citizens of our communities, State, and nation. This enhances the ability for a timely and coordinated response.
“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. Today was a great example of that. We (members of the 51st WMD CST) are all highly trained professionals that take pride in our commitment to people of Michigan” said, Ferrell.
This CST is 1 of the 57 WDM-CSTs in the National Guard that are located in every state, U.S. Territory, and Washington, D.C. The team’s primary mission is to support civil authorities by identifying HAZMAT agents and substances, advise on response measures, and assist with requests for additional support.
"The cooperative training and response-practice between HAZMAT fire-fighters, police and the CST are a sterling example of solid partnerships to protect communities," said Black.