THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 19 March 2019 — First Responders from Latin America and the Caribbean enhanced their capabilities in emergency response to chemical emergencies during a regional basic training course held in Panama City, Panama, from 11-15 March.
The training was jointly run by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Panama’s National Authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), with support of the Panamanian Firefighter Corps under the supervision of the National Security Council.
Addressing the course participants, General Vice-Director of the Panamanian Firefighter Corps, Col Gabriel Isaza, stated: “Training courses like this are crucial for ensuring that states are ready to react in a timely and effective manner to chemical incidents, whenever and wherever they emerge.”
Senior Program Officer from the Assistance and Protection Branch of the OPCW, Mr Justo Quintero Mendez, thanked Panama for its “sustained commitment to the implementation of the Convention” and commended the Panamanian institutions for “the substantial progress on chemical response preparedness.”
The course helped build basic capacity of participating states to respond to incidents involving both chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals, and included information on basic toxicology, the types and uses of individual protective equipment, reconnaissance, detection, decontamination and risk assessment.
During a practical session, the participants applied the knowledge obtained throughout the week.
In addition to knowledge and skill development, the course facilitated the exchange of information and fostered the growth of robust assistance and protection networks in the region.
Twenty-eight participants represented 16 OPCW Member States: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay.
These first responders will continue their training at an upcoming advanced course and an exercise in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the end of April.
As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW, with its 193 Member States, oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997, it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
Over 96% of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by possessor States have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.