On September 20th Emergency Response Teams in Caddo and Bossier Parishes added another dimension to FEMA's CHER-CAP exercise program. The CHER-CAP (Comprehensive Hazmat Emergency Response- Capability Assessment Program) is an exercise program developed in Region VI and is used nationwide to increase response capabilities to technological hazards. The Caddo-Bossier exercise added a twist to the traditional scenario by incorporating a crime scene situation into the HAZMAT incident.
The exercise scenario involved a school bus driver being shot in a drive-by shooting while carrying a bus full of students. This caused the school bus to careen into a tanker truck filled with a hazardous material. As a result, response teams had several variables to deal with- containment of the hazardous material, treatment of the injured, contamination issues, and the preservation of a crime scene. Typically, a HAZMAT incident is responded to by a fire department's HAZMAT Team. However, because of the added element of a crime scene, the Caddo Parish Sheriff's department's HAZMAT Team was called in to respond. This team worked under the Incident Command System and established a Unified Command, working in partnership with Emergency Response Teams from Shreveport and Bossier City and Barksdale Airforce Base. Volunteers from the Medical Magnate High School in Shreveport, as well as students from nursing schools and vocational schools were used as victims in the incident. Victims were transported to 10 different area hospitals to test decontamination procedures in the emergency rooms.
This exercise marks the first time that law enforcement has had a lead role in a CHER-CAP exercise. Traditionally, in a HAZMAT situation law enforcement's role is limited to crowd control of the scene. Because scenarios such as the one used in the exercise are becoming a real possibility in today's society, the role of law enforcement in HAZMAT is becoming more relevant.
The Caddo-Bossier Parish exercise is third CHER-CAP exercise this year in Region VI. If your community is interested in hosting a CHER-CAP exercise, please contact your State Emergency Management office for details.