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NEWS | Feb. 11, 2014

Will you be ready? Radiological incidents: Not a matter of if but when

By Maj. Bruce Hill Jr. 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

An ear-splitting BOOM rocked the earth, suddenly transforming a beautiful day into chaos. Some are wounded while a few lay dead from the unexpected blast. Some might have wondered if there would be more detonations or whether the explosions were radiological or nuclear. Those impacted by the attack would not know for a while.

Then the first responders roll in ...

This was the scene during the famed Boston Marathon in April 2013 when two pressure-cooker bombs went off at the highly populated annual event.

Though they were non-radiological, training and preparation provided by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Defense Nuclear Weapons School - Reserve Component located at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., ensured that local first responders from the National Guard were prepared.

The 24th National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team from New York and the Massachusetts CST were among the first responders that day, and just months prior to the attack both units were trained to respond to radiological and nuclear incidents by the DTRA-RC.

Introduction to Radiological Nuclear Incident Response is the course that those first responders completed.

"IRNIR is a two-day awareness level course developed to increase confidence and skill in responding to and mitigating the consequences of radiological events, as well as weapons of mass destruction," said Maj. Michael G. Schlueter, DTRA officer in charge.

DTRA-RC is the Department of Defense's go-to organization for this type of awareness training worldwide and the course will be offered in San Antonio Feb. 24 and 25.

The training will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Feb. 24 and 25 at the San Antonio Fire Training Academy located at 300 South Callaghan, San Antonio, Texas 78227. It is free to all registered participants. Course materials are provided. For more information and to register, call 505-846-6313 or 505-853-6372.

The course will also be taught in Austin, Feb. 27 and 28 and is accredited by the American Council on Education as a continuing education course.

"It is primarily for all U.S. military, federal, tribal, state, and local emergency planners, managers and responders," said Schlueter. "San Antonio is a great venue because of the large population, and the number of military and emergency responders in the area."

DTRA-RC brings the IRNIR course to San Antonio to provide various agencies an opportunity to better prepare themselves and their respective communities.
It is not the first time DTRA-RC been in the San Antonio area.

"It's getting harder to find places we haven't been," Schlueter said. "Over the past year alone our Reserve mobile training teams have taught more than 1,000 first responders, military and executives worldwide. Examples include some members of NATO Forces, Secret Service, FEMA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and components of Army North located in the San Antonio area."

The threat of a radiological or nuclear attack exists everywhere, which is why the DTRA-RC emphasizes the IRNIR course and teaches it to audiences worldwide.

"Responders need to know how to deal with it," Schlueter said. "To have this awareness training means you are that much more prepared. Any accident or incident can pose a potential radiological threat."