As the CDP's Industrial Hygienist, John Blandamer has a unique job. To start with, he's the CDP's only Industrial Hygienist. But, what sets him apart from others in his career field is that he is responsible for protecting the students and approximately 800 employees at the only training facility in the country where civilian responders can train in a toxic-agent environment.
CDP training focuses on incident management, mass-casualty response and emergency response to catastrophic natural disasters or terrorist acts. The center trains an average of 12,000 responders in its resident programs each year.
In a nutshell, Blandamer is responsible for protecting the students and staff from everything ranging from heat injuries to nerve agent exposure. With a job description like that, it's no wonder that Blandamer spends so little time in his office. Much of his duty day is spent traversing the CDP's 124-acre campus, analyzing the environment in search of health hazards.
His job frequently takes him to the COBRA (Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological) Training facility where he serves as the Chemical Hygiene and Bio Safety Officer. As such, Blandamer correlates, analyzes and interprets data pertaining to the GB and VX chemical agents and the ricin and anthrax biological agents that are used in training.
"Different chemicals present different hazards," Blandamer explained. "For example, the nerve agent, VX, can present a hazard to exposed skin so we look at the safety precautions such as the gloves and boots they wear during training." GB, on the other hand, is more volatile, so he looks closely at the protective masks and the masks' filter cartridges, Blandamer said. His efforts continue to pay off. No student or instructor has ever been injured by the chemical or biological agents.
Blandamer joined the CDP staff 15 months ago. Instead of having a hometown, Blandamer is more like a citizen of the world. He was born in Dorchester, England, but grew up McAlester, Okla. During his nearly 24-year career in government service, Blandamer has worked in nine states and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He holds an associate's degree in Medical Laboratory Technology; two bachelor's degrees, one in Zoology with a minor in Chemistry and the other in Public Health and Industrial Hygiene; and a master's in Occupational Health and Safety.
Blandamer closely monitors nearly every course taught at the CDP. In the law enforcement classes, For example the Field Force Operations (FFO) course, he monitors the noise levels of the public address system used during simulated demonstrations. Similarly, for the Field Force Extrication Tactics (FFE) course, he monitors the amount of silica dust the students and instructors may inhale when they cut through the concrete protester devices.
Similarly in the Hazardous Materials courses such as Hazardous Materials Technician for CBRNE Incidents (HT) and the Hazard Assessment and Response Management for CBRNE Incidents (HARM), Blandamer keeps an eye out for conditions that may lead the students to experience heat stress issues from wearing the personal protective equipment.
And, even with all that, there's yet another side to Blandamer's job. Blandamer is one of the lead people helping the CDP go green. As the CDP's Environmental Program Lead, he make sure that the CDP is following the EPA and Alabama Department of Environmental Management regulations on such things as hazardous material and air quality. He also reviews potential building and renovation projects to evaluate their environmental impact, always looking for ways to minimize or negate that impact. In addition, he oversees the CDP's energy conservation and sustainability initiatives.
Because of these initiatives, the CDP has three of the five buildings on FEMA's short list of buildings that are candidates to receive energy efficiency upgrades.
Making the CDP more energy efficient saves money on operating costs and allows the CDP staff to direct that cost savings toward other critical areas that would otherwise go unfunded due to budget constraints. Making the CDP more energy efficient enables the center to continue meeting national training needs, contributes to less energy consumption, and demonstrates the center's ability to reduce energy using modern methods that benefit the CDP's budget and the environment. The completed efficiency projects are projected to save $75,000 that the CDP can redirect towards training operations.
As the CDP's Industrial Hygienist, Blandamer is one of the many federal and contract employees who work behind the scenes to ensure that every student receives relevant, realistic and timely training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness.
Note: CDP training is fully funded for tribal, state, and local response personnel. Round-trip air and ground transportation, lodging, and meals are provided at no cost to responders or their agency or jurisdiction. The CDP plays a leading role in preparing state, local and tribal responders to prepare for and respond to manmade events or major accidents involving mass casualties. To learn more about the Center for Domestic Preparedness, visit http://cdp.dhs.gov or call 866-213-9553. Visit the CDP on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.