JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
You’re strolling through the Base Exchange, shuffling past other shoppers buying their holiday gifts, when you see a faint cloud hanging in the air. Alarms go off and people rush for the exit. A nerve agent has been released.
This is the scenario the 633rd Medical Group In-Place Patient Decontamination Team has spent three days preparing for. During IPPD training Nov. 5-7, 2019 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Airmen from the 633rd MDG learned how to quickly handle an emergency situation involving a mass contaminated event.
The IPPD team is one of 22 disaster teams in the 633rd MDG overseen by Roylynette Lyles, medical emergency manager.
According to Lyles, this is the first time in the last three years that Airmen at JBLE have had the opportunity to complete the IPPD training and certification, so this was new to everyone.
“They had never put on the equipment, donned a suit, had never put up the tent and basically never [decontaminated] a patient,” said Lyles.
On the first day of training, the team pulled out existing equipment, making repairs and in the process saving the Air Force over $60,000, according to Lyles. They continued their training in the classroom, learning deconning procedures and practicing hands-on methods, culminating in an exercise simulating a real-world mass contamination event.
Mass contamination events can be anything from a terrorist releasing a biochemical agent to a nuclear accident or something like a radiological dispersal device that doesn’t even have to explode, said Tom Bocek, Decontamination Education and Consulting trainer. In these events, victims will rush to the nearest medical treatment location.
“They [DCON team] are basically the shield for the medical treatment facility,” said Bocek. “Their mission is to make sure patients are clean enough to come in for medical treatment.”
To successfully complete training and receive certification, the 16-person team had to set up a tent, water heater, and have four personnel suited up in Powered Air-Purifying Respirator gear within 15 minutes, with the entire team geared up within an additional five minutes.
According to Bocek, these are the time constraints during which the team could clean up a patient if they arrived within those first 20 minutes.
The team then deconned one simulated non-ambulatory patient and one ambulatory patient, setting up two lanes in the tent to clean both patients at the same time before they could proceed for further medical treatment.
Lt. Ronald Smith, 633rd MDG physician assistant and IPPD team chief, said it’s important to be prepared for these types of events no matter the location.
“We never know if there is going to be an attack in our local area here on base or just some sort of hazardous spillage,” said Smith. “We have hazards all around the base and in the area. Anything could happen, so we always have to be prepared.”