A team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is working with the U.S. National Guard on a coordinated effort to train emergency first responders in the delicate and potentially critical task of securing reliable samples of suspected biothreats. The project, dubbed "Operation Vigilant Sample," seeks to coordinate training programs for first responders at the state, local and federal levels based on newly developed sample collection protocols.
NIST serves as an objective third party to evaluate how well the standards are being integrated into practice, and to develop quantitative metrics to evaluate training exercises, according to Jayne Morrow, an environmental engineer at NIST who led the development of the standard, which was released last year.*
"The aim of the operation is to provide a training lane that can help standardize the interface between initial local, state and federal responders to make sure everyone gets what they need from a collected sample of suspicious material, including providing a solid chain of custody," says Morrow. "Our goal here at NIST is to help integrate standards and training so that everyone from first responders to investigators knows they can rely on that sample."
The National Guard has 57 Civil Support Teams (CSTs) around the country that serve as the first wave of federal response to domestic chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents. The teams assess suspected attacks, advise civilian responders, and facilitate the arrival of additional state and federal military forces. Operation Vigilant Sample will help the CSTs by providing consistent training among the first responders with whom they work.
In February, 2011, NIST participated in a 72-hour Operation Vigilant Sample exercise at the army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. "After leading development of the ASTM standards relied on in the exercises," explains Morr
|Contact: Jennifer Huergo|
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)