East African First Responders Develop Expertise in Handling Chemical Emergencies

21 October 2020
East African First Responders Develop Expertise in Handling Chemical Emergencies

THE HAGUE, Netherlands–21 October 2020–Emergency First Responders from East Africa Community (EAC) nations enhanced their skills by completing an online course on the Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER) and the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). The training programme was organised by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Population Protection Institute of the Fire Rescue Service of the Czech Republic from 19 to 20 October.

During the opening session of the event, the course leader from the Czech Republic’s Population Protection Institute, Lt Col Ladislava Navrátilová, reaffirmed the Institute’s commitment to working with the OPCW to strengthen chemical safety and emergency preparedness in Africa.

The OPCW’s Special Advisor on Assistance and Protection, Mr Shawn DeCaluwe, added: “The course will provide first responders in the East Africa region with the basic tools and methodologies to identify a chemical hazard, develop their understanding of the threat, and define initial working and protection distances.” Mr DeCaluwe noted the same training will be extended to other regions of Africa to raise expertise across the continent.

Participants learned how to quickly and accurately characterise and contain incidents involving hazardous chemicals. They became familiar with the ERG and WISER as evaluation tools and for providing information on hazardous substances, protective distance plotting, and containment.

The course had 30 participants and observers from 14 OPCW Member States. Participants came from five countries of the EAC: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Observers represented Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, and Zambia.

Background

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 98% of all declared chemical weapon stockpiles have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

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