SEDALIA, Mo. - Some emergency responders from across the state have received training in the use of decontamination units that could be used to treat thousands in case of a bioterrorism attack.
The Biotech Systems mobile technical decontamination units are designed to neutralize or remove biological, chemical, or radiological agents after accidents or terrorist attacks.
More than 50 people received training Friday at the Missouri State Fairgrounds on the use of the 18 mobile units that have been delivered to agencies in the state. Until Friday, the 18 agencies had received the equipment, but only a few had been trained to use the units.
The units can handle 1,200 people an hour, with two tunnels to allow men and women to be decontaminated separately, said Steve Sloan, the State Emergency Management Agency public safety manager.
The two tunnels contain intense shower rooms and rooms to take off contaminated clothing. A diesel-powered unit can heat water and pump it to the showers and can add solutions to the shower water.
The decontamination units do more than wash off victims, officials said. A negative airflow filters the air, taking any chemicals or biological agents outside the tent-like units.
Emergency workers said seeing how the units worked gave them the confidence to use them.
"I think now that we've seen it done, we could set up in 15 minutes. With practice, we could cut that down," said Capt. Terry Cassil, hazardous materials branch officer of the Columbia Fire Department.
First responders also talked Friday about how their agencies would deal with a major decontamination.
"It's going to take a heck of a lot of folks, logistically, to handle 1,200 people an hour," said Capt. Terry Cassil, hazardous materials branch officer of the Columbia Fire Department.
Assistant Sedalia Fire Chief Don Meier said that crowd control would be a big issue, requiring police involvement; people would be needed to help victims undress, to wash them down, to tag and bag belongings, and to supervise victims after treatment.
"This is not something our Haz-Mat team will be able to handle by itself. It's going to take interagency cooperation," he said.
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State Emergency Management Agency: http://www.sema.state.mo.us/