Several Center for Domestic Preparedness courses include training on tools and technologies that will improve readiness and response capabilities.

One such technology is the latest evolution of ion mobility spectrometry (IMS), a complex technology that CDP plans to implement into technician-level (i.e., HAZMAT) training in late summer or early fall of 2016. Configured within a hand-held spectrometer that resembles a lantern-style flashlight, IMS allows for the detection of trace amounts of explosives precursors that may be used for the illicit manufacture of explosives. “The CDP teaches responders to use IMS spectrometry to detect chemicals that can be used for nefarious purposes,” said Mick Castillo, the CDP’s Technology Integration Coordinator.

Explosive precursors are potential threats, such as common, commercially-available peroxide-based, volatile and unstable chemicals used to construct the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) detonated in the recent Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks. Another commercially-available precursor is ammonium nitrate, the chemical used in the IEDs that devastated the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, killing 168 people.

CDP has already implemented Raman and Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy into courses that teach technician- and operations-level responders to conduct field-based, presumptive analyses of suspect chemicals. Although shaped and configured differently than the IMS spectrometer, CDP’s Raman and FTIR spectrometers are also lightweight, handheld, user-friendly instruments that now allow for pronounced accuracy in field analyses. Castillo enthusiastically stated that approximately 15 years ago, this level of accuracy in field-based chemical detection through use of small, lightweight spectrometers was not at all common.

“We have several courses in which responders train with IMS, Raman and FTIR spectrometers in the detection and analyses of a broad spectrum of chemical threats, not strictly those classified as explosives precursors,” Castillo said. “The responders learn to use varying survey and monitoring technologies developed for response operations in environments potentially contaminated by chemical substances.”

“In several CDP courses, responders conduct hands-on training with spectrometers to detect varying nontoxic chemical compounds in small group training lanes. They then use the same spectrometers to detect GB and VX nerve agents in the nation’s only toxic chemical-agent training facility dedicated solely to training emergency responders, the Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological (COBRA) Training Facility,” Castillo said. The CDP has trained nearly 10,000 responders to use IMS-, Raman- and FTIR-driven spectrometers in the following CDP-developed, technician- and operations-level courses:

Emergency Responder Hazardous Materials Technician for CBRNE Incidents (ERHM)

Hazardous Materials Technician for CBRNE Incidents (HT)

Hazard Assessment and Response Management for CBRNE Incidents (HARM)

“The CDP’s mission is to train responders to ultimately save lives,” Castillo said. “With an understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the technologies we’ve discussed today, responders will leave our campus with the capability to do just that.”