The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that after completing the second stage of an assistance and protection training cycle designed for first responders from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC) in August, participants will now move on to an exercise to be held Nov. 2-6 in Bogota, Colombia.
A new training cycle will start early next year in Peru, OPCW Public Information Officer Magdalena Spalinska said.
OPCW hosted and co-organized the Second Advanced Regional Assistance-and-Protection Course on Chemical Emergency Response for States Parties in Latin America and the Caribbean on Aug. 3-7 in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The OPWC operates as the international enforcement entity of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which prohibits the use, development and stockpiling of chemical weapons and other related activity.
“In order to support the States Parties in the implementation of Article X of the CWC, the OPCW’s Assistance and Protection Branch conducts capacity-building activities all over the world,” Spalinska told BioPrepWatch.
“These are knowledge- and skills-transfer activities related to the many aspects involved in protecting from and responding to a chemical attack from whatever source,” she said.
The August training course was the second stage designed for the GRULAC region. The first stage began in the Dominican Republic in March.
The course provided advanced training on the proper use of individual and collective protective equipment, as well as “the monitoring, detection, sampling and decontamination techniques used in different scenarios during field exercises with chemical warfare agents,” Spalinska said.
Additionally, the course provided training on appropriate responses and countermeasures in complex emergency operations, as well as rescue techniques during incidents involving chemical-warfare agents.
The course also facilitated the exchange of information and experience regarding the implementation of Article X of the CWC and provided a forum to discuss future cooperation among participating member states, which include Barbados, Argentina, Dominica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Grenada, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, St. Kitts and Nevis and hosting country Costa Rica.
“To qualify for the course, the participants had to have a solid background in the chemistry associated with protection against chemical weapons,” Spalinska told BioPrepWatch. “They also must belong to national emergency-response agencies involved and dealing with chemical-related incidents.”
Equally important for the success of the training, she added, was that participants “be physically fit and able to wear protective gear for several hours during the practical sessions of the course.”
During 2015, six courses were designed for GRULAC participants, who acquired and exercised their emergency response skills in different emergency response scenarios developed by the Costa Rican training providers, she said.
And in addition to the capacity-building objective, Spalinska said a future goal is to construct a regional emergency response network that enables mutual assistance and sharing of knowledge, skills, protocols and practices.
This will “make national and regional response to such incidents more effective and more expeditious, in line with the requirements of Article X of the CWC,” she said.
Joining the OPCW as co-organizers of the training course were the Costa Rican National Authority to the CWC and the National Fire Fighter Academy.