Emergency response training in chemical weapons will assist Barbados and its regional counterparts in responding to related incidents to minimise the impact on the environment and human health.
This was stressed this morning as the Regional Workshop on Assistance and Protection Training, Under Article 10 of the Chemical Weapons Convention got under way at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa, Rockley, Christ Church.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Sarah Brathwaite, said emergency response teams in Barbados were already confronted with chemical incidents.
She stated that among the most recent incidents were the Sermac Laundry fire of November 26, 2011, the Mangrove Pond Landfill fire of May 30 last year, and the McBride fire of September 3, 2007. She noted that the latter resulted in response personnel being exposed to a chemical that could be used in chemical warfare.
“Although these could not be considered actual chemical attacks, emergency personnel responded admirably. Therefore, training in chemical weapons can only further enhance their ability to respond should such incidents occur in the future,” Brathwaite said.
She pointed out that the Barbadian landscape contained a variety of business enterprises, some of which used chemicals in one form or another during their operations.
Brathwaite stressed that developing a cadre of skilled professionals, trained in emergency response protocols would strengthen the country’s goal of promoting sound chemical management.
By month-end, an officer from the Environmental Protection Department will undergo training in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Associate Programme of 2012.
Meanwhile, another officer is also expected to attend a basic training course for national authorities involved in the implementation of the CWC at the OPCW headquarters in the Netherlands from August 7.
“This training is expected to contribute to the development of the Hazardous Chemical Response Plan and assist in enunciation of strategies to the protection of residents and visitors from any chemical weapons incident,” Brathwaite noted.
She explained that the plan was prepared in 1999 but needed to be revised to fit into the current emergency response structure. It also needs to include mechanisms to protect civilians from chemical weapons and not only traditional chemical fires.
“In response to this type of event, there is the need for the appropriate safety equipment, sharpening of the skills and knowledge of the responders, and clarifying various aspects of the roles and responsibilities of the agencies involved in response,” she added.