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AZ Guard Airmen train to operate patient decontamination station

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Wesley Parrell
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing
A community’s ability to cope with a mass casualty event depends on the capabilities of its first responders and public health professionals to handle a sudden surge in demand of patients with resource-intensive and specialized medical needs. For the members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing’s Medical Group, their ability to respond and support an impacted community is a responsibility they do not take lightly.

Recently members of the 161st ARW’s In-Place Patient Decontamination team participated in an exercise to hone its skills to respond to a mass casualty event caused by chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive incident. A team comprised of Medical Group staff and wing Airmen stood up a functional IPPD unit to practice decontaminating potential contaminants from a patient's body or clothing, and preventing further exposure before they are transported for treatment.

“This training is critical to us being truly mission ready,” said Chief Master Sgt. George Silvas, the 161st Medical Group Superintendent. “We need to understand how an IPPD works and how to efficiently get patients triaged, through IPPD, and onto a higher level of medical care safely and quickly."

The training exercise provided the IPPD team an in-depth experience setting up a decontamination facility and reaching mission-capable status to receive patients in a short amount of time. The goal is to be in mission-capable status within 20 minutes of an emergency notification.

The IPPD training also focused on equipment set-up, contaminant identification, proper patient decontamination, and understanding each team member’s role in the overall process.

“This is one of the mission skills that you hope never have to use,” said Master Sgt. Stephen Mason, the 161st ARW Public Health NCOIC and team leader for the IPPD. “We train for the worst case scenarios but we truly hope that we never have to use them.”

Incidents needing an IPPD teams support can be anything from an industrial accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack. Once it is determined that a patient has come in contact with a potential contaminant the IPPD team must contain the hazard to prevent it from spreading.

During emergencies, the National Guard is the first military responder supporting civil authorities, helping to facilitate a unified and rapid response. In domestic emergencies, training such as this helps our Airmen integrate into an effective response role and help save lives.

“Our goal is to mitigate the exposure of a contaminant and get a patient prepped for treatment,” Mason said. “Training like this makes me confident that our team is ready should we be called upon to perform this task.”