UT offers chemical weapons response training in Nigeria

Originally printed in the Knoxville News Sentinel - Aug. 26, 2015

By MJ Slaby

A University of Tennessee team will travel to Nigeria later this week to lead a workshop about chemical weapons response.

The training program is a partnership between the Law Enforcement Innovation Center, which is an agency of the UT Institute for Public Service and the Global Security Program in the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy.

Organizers collaborated with the UT Department of Chemistry to create the new grant-funded workshop. About 30 Nigerian law enforcement officers of various levels will attend the training led by the five-member UT team.

"This is practical training for front-line officers where the threat is real," said Howard Hall, director of the Global Security Program.

He said chemical weapons likely cause fewer deaths than weapons of mass destruction, but law enforcement is more likely to see chemical weapons.

Chemical weapons response tends to be overlooked in training, said Don Green, director of the Law Enforcement Innovation Center.

Green said going to Nigeria expands outreach, and Nigerian law enforcement officers can use their materials to continue the training.

Currently, Green said similar training isn't offered for domestic law enforcement, but he and Hall said they hope to adapt the training and add it to the list of workshops offered domestically as well as offering it internationally.

The training includes simulated chemical weapons laboratories, and participants will learn what to do if a chemical weapon is used. Participants will learn to identify chemical weapons, evacuate scenes, collect hazardous materials and clean up laboratories, Green said.

Chemicals used for weapons can be complex and dangerous and may require various levels of protective gear for responders. Organizers said the training aims not only to stop chemical weapons from being used, but to protect first responders and make sure they go home safely.

 

"It's not hypotheticals," Hall said.

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