From left, 1st Lt. Sharon Eleby, 81st Medical Operations Squadron, and Capt. (Dr.) John Dusenbury and Senior Airman Sagan Barber, 81st Dental Squadron, triage a “simulated patient” and determine the type of agent they’re dealing with during decontamination training, Dec. 19-21, 2011 at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Students had to adequately identify agents and decontaminate the patient in order to pass. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Bond)
Staff Sgts. Jason Ware, 81st Dental Squadron; Malerie Auld, 81st Medical Operations Squadron; Michael Kerber, 81st Surgical Operations Squadron; Tech. Sgt. Jermain Smith, 81st MDOS; and Staff Sgt. LaKeisha McKitchen, 81st DS, decontaminate a “patient” covered with a simulated nerve agent during decontamination training, Dec. 19-21, 2011 at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Bond)
Tom Bocek, DECON LLC Corp. instructor and owner, front right, leads class members in a motivational “pep talk” before they begin their timed exercise while DECON LLC instructors Charlie Jansen and Theresa Casey observe during decontamination training, Dec. 19-21, 2011 at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Bond)
1/18/2012 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- While most people prepared for the holidays, a contingent of "Dragon Medics" from the 81st Medical Group and nurses from the Biloxi Department of Veterans Affairs medical campus prepared for the worst during a training session Dec. 19-21.
DECON LLC Corporation instructors from Mississippi, Florida, Texas and Michigan conducted the Air Force Medical In-Place Patient Decontamination course at the Keesler Hospital at no cost to 15 Keesler medics and three VA nurses.
According to Tom Bocek, DECON LLC Corp. instructor and owner, "This was a volunteer preparedness effort for the Biloxi community. Bob Tash of the 81st Medical Support Squadron readiness flight and I coordinated the program."
Bocek noted the Biloxi VA staff and Keesler medics hadn't had any "formal" IPPD training since he conducted sessions for them in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
Bocek added his instructors -- Brent Fenton from Florida, Theresa Casey from Texas, Charlie Jansen from Michigan -- and he regularly train medical decontamination at Air Force, Navy, Army and Marine Corps bases, and occasionally at VA and civilian hospitals.
"Somehow, Keesler inadvertently was excluded in this fiscal year's funding for decon training," Bocek explained. "Since Bob and I have worked medical readiness programs as far back as the mid-1980s when we served together at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, we decided to arrange a mutually-beneficial program to help the Keesler medics, the VA nurses and ultimately the Biloxi community as well as the instructors."
The training course covered three full days. The first day was spent with Keesler medical patient decon assistant team chief Tech. Sgt. William Kiddy and other members of the team from the 81st MDG. Participants reviewed plans, removed the IPPD equipment from storage and conducted a thorough inventory. They also checked functions, repaired damaged equipment, prepared students' personal protective equipment bags and set up a classroom.
On the second day, the 18 students attended classroom instruction where they learned how a medical "warm zone" (contamination not expected, but possible) response interaction with other base agencies, medical considerations of different contaminants, antidote therapy, how to inspect and properly wear PPE, how to assess or triage casualties while in PPE and how to best organize the decon equipment to effectively decontaminate casualties.
The third day was entirely "hands-on" training during which students put into practice what they learned in the classroom.
Because the training was so intense, students wore physical-training garb. They first were taught how to select a site for a medical warmzone, set up each piece of equipment and learned the equipments' capabilities, limitations, care and maintenance. They erected the complete warm-zone and discussedeach step down to the last sponge and pair of scissors. Then the class tore it all down, donned their PPE and set it up again wearing PPE. Bocek explained that in many cases contaminated patients arrive before the equipment is in place and the only option then is to set-up in suits.
Students next faced "patients," both ambulatory and on litters. They assessed each patient, determined the potential contaminant, triaged, performed life-saving measures including antidote therapy and subsquently efficiently decontaminated each patient.
Bocek explained that in this class, 'simulate' is a dirty word. "We simulate nothing," he explained. "Everything is as real as possible. We even use a training agent that is roughly the same consistency and persistency as a G-series nerve agent. The students must adequately decontaminate the patient or they fail."
The entire training session was re-enforced by a timed exercise prior to which the equipment had been completely repacked. The students were given a contamination scenario and then had to quickly and efficiently set up the entire medical warm-zone equipment package, triage and decontaminate victims.
Bocek said, "The standards in the USAF Quality Program Plan for IPPD training is 'mission capable' in less than 15 minutes, and 'set-up complete' in less than 20 minutes. 'Mission capable' means the decon tent is up, warm water flowing and at least four team members have donned their protective suits. At that point Headquarters Air Combat Command (the major air command assigned and responsible for patient decontamination oversight) believes the first patients who had arrived can be helped. 'Set-up complete' indicates all 20 team members are completely suited up and everything is entirely ready for full- scale operations.
He continued, "The combined Keesler and Biloxi VA medical team absolutely smoked the standard by reaching mission-capable in just five minutes, 20 seconds and completed set-up in just 10:48. In addition, the combined Keesler/Biloxi VA team sent all patients through decon clean the first time."
"It was a thing of beauty to watch; they really took this training to heart," Tash remarked.
Bocek said upon completing training each trainee received certification in the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's hazardous waste operations up to the "operator's level." They also earned Air Force IPPD training certification and, if they were nationally-registered emergency medical technicians, they also were awarded 12 continuing education units towards recertification.
He commented, "The Biloxi VA nurses are trying to re-establish a decon team originally created after 9-11. They were very appreciative of this timely training and eager to return to the Biloxi VA with their new skills, get their equipment out of the closet and re-energize their team.
"The DECON Instructors meet annually to recertify their own hazardous waste operations instructor certifications, refresh on equipment repair and standardize future curriculum," Bocek stressed. "The Keesler training session provided so much to so many."