News>Malmstrom participates in Bio-Detection System exercise
Airman 1st Class Zachary Torres, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron member, left, and Staff Sgt. Zachary Henry, 341st CES firefighter, set up security at the contamination site during the exercise. One of the objectives in the BDS Alert exercise was to properly isolate and secure the inner perimeter. Torres’ and Henry’s protective gear include respirators, rubber gloves and a level B suit, which is the highest level of respiratory protection necessary for a positive anthrax detection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
Senior Airman Channing Jones, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron fire fighter, left, connects a hose to a fire hydrant with the help of a member from Great Falls Fire Rescue as they set up equipment to make a wet decontamination tent. More than 20 members of Team Malmstrom participated in a Bio-Detection System Alert exercise at the Great Falls Processing and Distribution Facility on Sept. 20. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
A member of Great Falls’ Regional HAZMAT team leads four members of Team Malmstrom acting as postal employees to a tent where they were decontaminated with water. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
Dan Cherry, Great Falls Fire Department and decontamination officer, left, asks for Airman 1st Class Justin Colberg’s, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron traffic management apprentice, name as he conducts accountability of the volunteers acting as postal employees before they took a city transit bus to Great Falls City County Health Department for a medical screening. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
Team Malmstrom and Montana Air National Guard volunteers fill out a public health form at Great Falls City-County Health Department before they are given medical screenings and simulated post exposure prophylaxis during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
by Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
9/28/2012 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Malmstrom Air Force Base's 341st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters, hazardous material team members and volunteers participated in a Bio-Detection System Alert exercise at the Great Falls Processing and Distribution Facility on Sept. 20.
A year in planning, the exercise consisted of local, county, state and federal agencies and was designed to evaluate United States Postal Service® Inspection Service Denver Division BDS specialists' response, evidence collection and transportation procedures during a positive BDS alert for anthrax.
According to the USPS website, anthrax has received more attention because of its use as a biological warfare agent. To help counter the threat of anthrax in the mail, the postal service has developed a biohazard detection system. The BDS system is needed because it enables early identification of anthrax providing for a rapid response.
"Today we have between 75 and 85 people included in the exercise," said Sally Tuomi, Great Falls post office operations manager and public information officer for the state of Montana. "We don't have many opportunities fortunately to utilize our HAZMAT teams locally, so when we have an opportunity like this involving the U.S. post office and their new devices, we wanted to see what that looks like."
Members from Great Falls' fire rescue, police department, City County Health Department, Malmstrom, Montana Air National Guard, public transit and the USPS were key players in making the exercise a success.
"We've been planning on this [exercise] for about a year, having quarterly meetings and having conference calls because a lot of agencies here aren't local," said Kristal Kuhn, Great Falls emergency management. "The purpose of exercises like this is to set up the layout, figure out where all the equipment [should go] and make sure everyone is safe. We want to make sure that it is cohesive and we're not contaminating anyone else, making the incident larger than it has to be."
The exercise started with an alarm indicating a positive BDS alert for anthrax in the Great Falls Processing and Distribution Facility. A call to 9-1-1 was simulated and first responders arrived as more than 20 volunteers playing the role of post office employees were evacuated from the building, escorted by Malmstrom's 341st CES HAZMAT team members. A secure perimeter was made to isolate the contaminated volunteers as they exited the building and followed decontamination procedures. They then walked through a wet DECON and were washed down in accordance with proper medical monitoring and surveillance. They were then taken to Great Falls City-County Health Department where they received mock medical screenings and post exposure prophylaxis.
The four-hour long exercise was an eye-opening experience for all participants. While responders had a chance to be involved in the incident command system, volunteers a chance to see how they would be properly decontaminated.
"I work at the traffic management office at Malmstrom and I periodically deal with hazardous materials so I thought it would be interesting to see how it would be handled if there was as leak or a contamination," said Airman Rory Stodgell, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron traffic management apprentice. "It was a great experience. I learned a lot about how we wash down; receive medication and how they deal with it. I'm really glad I participated in it."
"We run through exercises like this so that we can prepare ourselves and the local responders in case there is a real emergency where we need to work together," Tuomi said. "We really appreciate all the help with our local responders and all those who participated. It helps us, helps them and it helps keep the community safe."