Health & Safety

August 24, 2012

Agility in a contaminated environment

by Robert J. Kaschak
452 Emergency Management technician

When the Air Force initially tackled the challenge of protecting personnel and assets from chemical weapons, the process involved placing the entire installation in MOPP 4 condition status. Due to limited knowledge of the threat, we erred on the side of conservatism, which inflicted a heavy burden on the base populace when performing critical tasks. As a result, personnel spent significant amounts of time in MOPP 4 until the threat was no longer viable.

Over the years, we have acquired extensive knowledge of chemical agents and their properties, which have enabled us to better defend the base, protect our people and still maintain our mission readiness posture.

Our current abilities allow us to sector the base in order to pinpoint and properly respond to areas of contamination, while allowing unaffected areas to continue the mission in modified protective gear status, of MOPP 2. By using the split MOPP process, emergency planners are able to ascertain which sectors of the base need to increase or decrease their protective measure status due to differing levels of contamination — it is possible for adjoining sectors to have different MOPP levels.

Split MOPP allows for increased versatility in accomplishing the mission, reducing the thermal burden and stress, as well as recovery time for personnel. Sectors are determined using several factors to include mission criticality, building proximity, terrain, roadways, and populated areas. The goal is to limit the transfer of contamination to personnel, aircraft and vehicles.

During deployments, personnel receive initial briefings that include the mapping of base sectors. This portion of the briefing is crucial because it provides a layout of the base and a spatial reference of main areas, command and control facilities and their primary work centers. As our skills have increased in defining sectors and split MOPPS, so has the ability to provide an effective method of entering and exiting sectors. This method is called a transition point and emergency management has acquired an item specifically designed to accomplish that task with ease. The kit provides standardized equipment and instructions for all personnel transiting sectors throughout the base.

The transition point system integrates instruction signs, M295 kit holders, decon towellettes, boot wash trays, alarm signal status, MOPP level and zone identifiers in one system. The kit requires one person for set up and takes approximately five minutes to complete. It is lightweight, easily collapsible and very mobile. The kit is highly versatile and can be used on dirt, grass, sand, concrete or asphalt. Its composition is high-tensile strength fiberglass strut tubing with glass-filled collars and associated hardware. Instruction signs with standardized procedures are placed on both sides of the rack so personnel can see them when leaving and entering the zone.

The main benefit of the transition kit is an expedient and easy transition from zone to zone for base personnel. The Emergency Management Office has been training with this newly acquired kit for the past several months. Those who participate in the ORE/ORI will see these kits during the contamination monitoring phases. Currently, the kits are set up at bldg. 1214 if anyone desires to see them or has questions about how the process works.

Shelter managers will also work the kits since they will function as entry control points for building entrances.

Combating a chemical threat is no easy venture, but as technology progresses in tandem with our knowledge and skills, we continue to find ways to make it less difficult, safe and effective — especially during this critical time of high stress and task saturation.

Your emergency management flight is working diligently to teach, train and transpose the base populace into an effective and confident unit, capable of not only completing war time tasks, but also adeptly minimizing contamination, while functioning in a high threat area. A collaborative effort by all will allow us to succeed. We can do this Team March!




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