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NNSA conducts first disaster response drill with USAID

Bill Beal from the Remote Sensing Lab briefing the DART team.

Earlier this month, NNSA joined our interagency partners at the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to conduct a field drill, called Concrete Shield. The exercise took place at a national urban search and rescue training facility in Virginia that is used by first responders to simulate field operations in disaster zones.

The exercise provided the agencies an opportunity to practice using their unique expertise and tools that would be deployed domestically or internationally in the event of a radiological or nuclear incident, helping each agency to maintain mission-readiness.

During an international event, NNSA personnel would deploy and embed with OFDA’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), which supports requests for U.S. humanitarian assistance by host nations whose own resources are overwhelmed. The team works to ensure that delivery of food, water, shelter, and other life-saving commodities are initiated quickly and that programs to help the affected populations recover begin as soon as possible following a disaster.

DART Advisor Bill Beal from the Remote Sensing Lab discusses DOE/NNSA data product with DART Team Leader Jonathon Anderson and Deputy Manager of Operations Veronika Martin.

Using a simulated natural disaster and nuclear incident scenario, NNSA provided radiological experts to integrate their knowledge and tools into the existing DART processes.

Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief work is a challenging mission. NNSA helps with decisions that are complicated by the presence of radiation. During a radiological or nuclear incident, NNSA would keep the DART and its partners safe while they conducted wide-scale humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in a potentially contaminated environment.

“NNSA’s consequence management experts would join the DART and provide atmospheric dispersion modeling, environmental monitoring and sampling, dose assessment, worker safety, and technical advice and recommendations,” said Dr. Dan Blumenthal, manager for NNSA’s Consequence Management program. “Our deployed experts at the incident site would request additional reachback support from NNSA national laboratories.”

The Concrete Shield exercise is part of a series of preparedness activities that NNSA and OFDA are conducting to enhance their joint operations in the event of an international radiological or nuclear incident.

“The exercise was an overwhelming success,” said Dr. Steve Musolino, an NNSA Radiological Assistance Program team scientist and DART asset project manager. "Role-playing added a dimension of realism to the exercise that allowed our in-field and home teams to employ a comprehensive technical and strategic response effort.”

Future events may expand the exercise to train additional personnel, and deploy to an international location to provide a more realistic training environment for the team.

DART Field Monitoring Specialist, John Aloi of Brookhaven National Laboratory, second from left, briefs the DART on radiation dosimetry.