Carson City has received a new resource for keeping the public safe.
The National Guard’s 92nd Civil Support Team has moved to Carson City to help assist local agencies with any natural or man-made disasters such as hazardous materials or weapons of mass destruction. This unit is to respond to calls, like the white powder scare on Tuesday at the Carson City Sheriff’s Office, and is equipped with resources to test various biological and chemical substances to determine what they are.
Previous the unit, composed of 21 airmen and soldiers, was stationed in Las Vegas, but because there were so many similar resources, Gov. Brian Sandoval decided it would be beneficial to have the unit in Northern Nevada instead. In Northern Nevada, there’s a quad unit, meaning that resources are scattered across the various counties, so when something happens, units had to wait until all the counties’ units could respond to one area before beginning their job.
“Vegas is a big town with lots of resources,” said Maj. Chuck Dickenson, executive deputy commander of the 92nd unit. “Usually when we are called, it is when all the other resources have already been exhausted. To be in a smaller town with smaller Hazmat resources, they get used a lot more quickly than in Vegas, so we can be utilized more.”
The unit moved to Carson in early August and has already been called on three cases, including the PCC Structurals chemical fire in early November and the unknown substance brought to the Sheriff’s Office Tuesday. Dickenson said the unit has been welcomed into the community already.
“It’s good to be here we have a really warm welcome from the first responders and we are settling in just fine,” Dickenson said.
The unit spent Thursday at the Carson City Fire Station training on what to do when first responders find unknown substances. The scenario was the governor was giving a speech at the town hall meeting at the fire station and an assailant put two devices filled with an unknown substance under the bleachers. In the scenario, the suspect was located by police and shot, resulting in immediate surgery at Renown Regional Medical Center, unable to be questioned by police about other devices. When officers investigated the man’s RV and two other vehicles in the area, they found unknown substances and two containers similar to those found at the meeting. The CST team was being called in the find out what the substances were and if they were dangerous.
This training is one of two the unit will have before an evaluation in January by the U.S. Army North to be re-certified by the Secretary of Defense. The unit will get tested on everything it’s supposed to do in a real situation, such as medical, procedures for cross contamination reduction, substance testing, tracking and comminution. The training can last anywhere from 6 hours to days, depending on the complexity and extensiveness of the training, said Maj. Lt. Brett Compston.
The unit’s training on Tuesday was interrupted by a real world application, where they had to put their training in place to determine what the substance was in a package brought to the Sheriff’s Office. Officials said they had started setting up their scenario at the fire station when they got the call to go to the Sheriff’s Office.
The unit typically is able to test substances on site and try to have them within an hour in an actual situation. In each training, unit personnel need to set up and take down their equipment, including wash stations, incident command, information, and communications, which takes nearly a half hour before they are able to go into the hot zone where the substances are. Once the CSTs are suited up in their Hazmat suits, they take a small buggy into the hot zone two at a time, with two on call as backup.
They also use a host of technology to determine what a substance is, including infrared lighting, radiation and chemical and biological detectors, Compston said.
“Our goal is relative to the threat,” Compston said. “We are to keep the public safe.”
Each team member must complete 600-1,800 hours of training before becoming a deployable member of the unit. The unit supports a variety of national and state events such as the Boston Marathon, the Presidential Inauguration, and New Year’s Eve on the Las Vegas Strip.