THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 6 November 2020 — Emergency First Responders from Latin American and Caribbean Member States learned about personal protection against chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals during an online workshop held from 2 to 6 November. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) led the training with the support of the Hazardous Materials Unit of Costa Rica’s Fire Brigade and the Faculty of Chemistry at Costa Rica University.
OPCW’s Special Advisor on Assistance and Protection, Mr Shawn DeCaluwe, reaffirmed the Organisation’s commitment to assisting Member States in protecting their populations against chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals. He added: “This commitment, enshrined in Article X of the Chemical Weapons Convention, is one of the pillars of the international regime against those terrible weapons.”
The training covered the types and characteristics of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals, respiratory protection equipment and chemical suits, selection of the correct personal protection equipment, decontamination methods, and pre-hospital care after exposure to chemicals and toxic agents.
Twenty-four participants reflected a variety of incident response backgrounds, including civil defence, hazmat equipped firefighters, and CBRN military units. The following OPCW Member States were represented: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru. An observer from the Inter-American Defense Board also followed the course.
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.