Protection against Chemical Weapons

Assistance-And-Protection Course, China, May 2008.

Source: A FOA Briefing Book on Chemical Weapons.

There are four main cornerstones in the protection against chemical weapons, all of which are largely dependent upon each other to provide optimum effect. These four are:

  • physical protection: body protection, respiratory protection, collective protection;
  • medical protection: pretreatment, therapy;
  • detection: alarm, monitoring, verification, identification, all-clear;
  • decontamination: individual decontamination, equipment decontamination.

In addition to this equipment, tactical behaviour suitably adapted to the CW environment is an important component in the protection. Training in how to behave in CW environment and how CW protective equipment is used is essential, not least to give confidence in using equipment.

Even though the rescue teams are trained and have access to the best possible protective equipment, there will be a performance degradation once they have started to use the protective equipment. This is particularly noticeable in warm weather. Impermeable CW protective suits and also to some extent permeable suits which "respire" are very hot. During hard physical work, the surplus energy cannot be removed and therefore a person will rapidly become overheated and may suffer from heat collapse. This implies a major complication for CW protection during the summer, particularly in very hot areas such as deserts. Performance is also degraded in cooler weather.

Did You Know?

Protective equipment is relatively clumsy, which implies that most tasks require longer to perform than normal. Endurance decreases and when a protective mask is worn, it becomes difficult to communicate with people in the neighbourhood.