How did the WMD-CST program get
started in the first place?
In 1998, President Clinton announced that
the nation would do more to protect its citizens against the growing threat of
chemical and biological terrorism. As part of this effort the Department of
Defense formed teams to support state and local authorities in the
event of an incident involving weapons of mass destruction. The 47th is located
in Flowood, MS and was certified operational by the Department of Defense in
February 2006 and undergoes re-certification every 18 months.
What exactly does the 47th CST do?
What is it’s mission?
The 47th CST’s mission is to support local
and state authorities at domestic WMD/CBRNE incident sites by identifying agents
and substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on
response measures, and assisting with requests for additional military support.
What’s the difference between the 47th
CST and Mississippi's Regional Hazardous Materials Teams?
The 47th works in partnership with
Mississippi’s Regional Hazardous Materials Teams, providing additional
personnel, equipment and experience to a response operation. In addition, the
team can be requested by local fire, police or EOD agencies to support security
plans of large, public events to help prevent or detect an attack. Finally, the
47th can be requested by an Incident Commander to assist with response efforts
after a large scale man made or natural disaster. The 47th has the personnel,
training and equipment to specialize in weapons of mass destruction, terrorism
and situations with unknown but highly toxic chemicals. They bring unique
technologies and personnel to rapidly identify chemical and biological agents
and radiological materials.
Who staffs the 47th CST and what
type of training do they receive? Are they part time?
The 47th CST is staffed by 22 full time Army
and Air Force personnel covering 14 different military specialties. Every member
of the CST is an IFSAC certified Hazardous Materials Technician. The team
received more than 25,000 hours of highly specialized training from military
sources like the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Disease and
the US Army Chemical School. There is also extensive manufacturer training for
their equipment. Some of the more unique personnel are a hazardous materials
modeler, physician assistant, nuclear medical science officer, two
communications specialists and eight very specialized WMD survey personnel.
Who does the team work for at an
incident, how fast can they respond and how much do they cost?
The 47th is organized under the Incident
Command System structure and receives all objectives and tasks from the
requesting Incident Commander (usually a local fire, law enforcement or public
health official). Once an alert is received, the 47th recalls all members and
deploys a liaison element from the Flowood unit within 60 to 90 minutes. Two
hours after alert the remainder of the team deploys to a staging area. Site
reconnaissance missions can begin in the hot zone 60 to 90 minutes after arrival
in the staging area. The team is federally funded and the only cost to a
community may be for contractor removal of decontamination line and contaminated
equipment once an operation is complete. There are no payroll, fuel, equipment
or supply costs to any community that requests CST support.
What kind of equipment does the 47th
CST bring to an incident scene?
In addition to the equipment most hazardous
materials teams have, like Level A suits, SCBA’s and basic chemical monitoring
equipment, the CST brings sophisticated gear as well. For example: The survey
team can wear BG-4 Rebreathers and carry a portable GC-MS, HazID FT-IR and
antibody based biological tests right into the hot zone for rapid
identification. The Analytical Laboratory System (ALS) has a headspace sampling
GC-MS along with IlluminatIR FT-IR spectrometry, PCR and ECL systems for DNA
analysis of biological agents, and both optical and ultra-violet microscopy.
Survey members carry state-of-the-art gamma spectrometers that not only find
radiation sources, but identify most common isotopes. The Operations section
uses sophisticated computers and software to create hazardous materials “plumes”
and models of predicted outcomes and the Communications section has the ability
to link multiple communications systems together and provide worldwide real time
satellite links and secure encrypted communications.
Does the 47th CST do mass
decontamination or remediation?
No. The 47th CST is equipped to
decontaminate its own personnel, but does not have the capacity to decontaminate
large numbers of victims. The CST will do some minimal hazardous materials
mitigation, but can not undertake a true remediation mission. The CST can help
determine hazardous materials remediation needs and identify appropriate
contractors to handle any given situation.
If the 47th CST is military, do they
provide site security for a WMD incident?
No. If an incident commander requests it,
the team can respond armed to defend its own personnel from an aggressor but is
not set up to provide perimeter security or assist law enforcement.
Does the 47th CST provide emergency
medical treatment to victims?
No. The CST does have a Physician Assistant
and Medic highly trained in treating casualties from WMD’s but they focus on
“linking-up” with local EMS and hospitals to provide the information necessary
to successfully treat patients within the normal EMS system. The CST can provide
Advanced Life Support for a limited number of first responders, but does not
have the ability to transport patients.