Latin American and Caribbean Countries Focus on Chemical Defense Training

Latin American and Caribbean Countries Focus on Chemical Defense Training

By Andréa Barretto / Diálogo
August 19, 2019

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An enemy attack, an accident due to human error or a natural disaster could trigger the alarm for a chemical threat, exposing people and nature to potentially harmful agents. The objective of the Regional Assistance and Protection Exercise for Member States of the Latin American and Caribbean Region (EXBRALC IV, in Portuguese) is to enable a rapid and efficient response during emergencies.

“Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear [CBRN] defense has global relevance to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction and accidents with toxic industrial materials. There are CBRN troops in almost all the armed forces of developed and developing countries,” said Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) Captain Roney Magno de Sousa, head instructor for the CBRN division of the Army’s Specialized Instruction School.

The 2019 edition of EXBRALC took place in Rio de Janeiro, June 3-7, at facilities of EB and the Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese). The training brought together 38 participants from 18 countries: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador, Spain, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay. Brazilian participants included service members from the armed forces, police officers, firefighters, and representatives from the Brazilian Intelligence Agency.

EXBRALC IV activities included lectures, trainings, and chemical emergency simulation exercises, covering the detection of harmful agents to decontamination. (Photo: Brazilian Army)

Activities kicked off with lectures conducted by representatives of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an international institution headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, whose mission is to supervise the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. OPCW aims to eradicate this type of weapon worldwide. Representatives from the Brazilian government participated in the lectures, discussing the structure of Brazilian chemical defense and its legislation.

Completing the stages

Aside from lectures, participants attended theoretical trainings. They were introduced to concepts on the handling of different types of equipment — for individual protection, screening, and decontamination of chemical agents — used in those types of emergencies.

Training took place at facilities of the Brazilian Navy and Army. (Photo: Brazilian Army)

An MB facility served as the venue for this phase and for the first hands-on EXBRALC IV exercise. This activity simulated a contamination in a port terminal. The group’s challenge consisted of collecting samples suspected of being contaminated with CBRN agents, and then turning them over to a test laboratory. The mission ended with the decontamination of all participating personnel.

“The integrative exercise aimed to create a situation where the maritime authority had to decide to use the Navy’s response capacity, restoring operations of a port terminal, thus benefitting Brazilian citizens,” said Captain Márcio da Mota Xerém, commander of MB’s Biological, Chemical, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense Center.

In addition to this exercise, EXBRALC offered three other hands-on workshops, which EB coordinated at the Specialized Instruction School. “The first two workshops consisted of simulations of environments contaminated by toxic industrial chemicals in potential real-life situations: an accident at a gas station and a container with toxic chemicals at a commercial port,” said Capt. Magno.

Faced with these scenarios, students isolated and assessed the area, collected samples, all while protecting the personnel against harmful agents, and recorded their activities, ending with decontamination procedures.

The final exercise was more comprehensive, and included a simulated accident with several victims. The scenario consisted of a bus full of passengers that had collided with a truck loaded with chemicals.

Participants formed teams assigned to different areas: logistics, reconnaissance, first aid and triage, isolation of the area, threat containment, sampling, and evacuation of the injured and decontamination, among others.