Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chem/Bio Responder Debi!

I must once again describe something that was only made possible for me because I am in the Foreign Service. In 2008 when letters containing a white powder were sent to embassies around the world, the call came out for people to volunteer to be Chem/Bio Emergency Responders. Those are the people in the funny suits and gas masks that risk their lives to go in and test white powders and/or rescue people inside an embassy who have been made ill by contact with a chemical or biological agent (hence the name Chem/Bio). I immediately signed up to be a responder. The training was tough. Think about being in an airtight suit with gas mask, gloves, rubber boots and all seams taped up with duct tape...practicing saving people in 80 degree weather. That's what we went through in 2008 for this 2 day training. I was one of the 4 people chosen to 'rescue' someone who had opened an envelope containing anthrax. The 4 of us raced off with the stretcher. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be one of the instructors, who weighed about 200 lbs! We had to get him on the stretcher (he was dead weight), lift him and navigate through doorways and down stairs to get him out of the building. But...we did it! Then he began the scrub down. As Chem/Bio responders, we have the privilege of saying...STRIP! And they better obey us! Soap, bleach, water, more soap...soon he was decontaminated. It was only a drill but it was intense. We were in those suits for over 2 hours. When we finally took them off, we were soaking wet!

That was in 2008. Recently, more letters have been sent out to several embassies in Africa with a Grand Prairie, Texas return address. Embassies worldwide are on alert. You never know when the idiot will use the real thing so you have to be prepared. So, this week, we had a refresher course. As you can see, it's hard to tell who is who but we did have our names written on duct tape on our chest and back. Here I am with Mireya and Janie...I'm the one in the middle!! I'm sure you recognize those eyes!!

The next picture is of some of the responders getting suited up. There is an order to this...first you put on your gloves. I don't understand that too much because the gloves are XXXL and once on, you can't do anything with your hands! It makes pulling and cutting the duct tape to cover all seams such fun!!

Once you get the gloves on, you struggle to put your suit on, which is also an XXXL so that one size will fit all...with the help of a little duct tape! Pulling that zipper up is a bear! We suit up with the help of a buddy so it helps a little. But once you have your stuff all on, you get to help your buddy. Remember those XXXL gloves?

At the end of the class, we were all sweaty but felt good that we had a chance to have a quick run-through of what we do in case one of those envelopes comes to our embassy. And at the end of the class, I had to sit down,trying to breathe through that mask with sweat dripping down my nose, and thinking that one day, it might save my life and/or the life of someone else.


Bfiles said...

wow. Now that's commitment to your job. i'm impressed.

Debi said...

I'm fortunate to have a job where every day can present an opportunity to do something you never dreamed you would ever do. I am so blessed!!

Laurie said...

Those suits look bizzare! I suggest that you join an internet dating service and you pick one of these pics as your profile. You may find a very interesting man (or alien) soon!

Debi said...

Well, it sure would make him look me in the eyes, since that's all he's going to see! Too funny...

Yellow Flower said...

Love the pics!!! Too funny!!

PS - I got the invite to the 6/21 class!! :-)

Debi said...

Yellow Flower! Congratulations on getting that coveted "Welcome to the Foreign Service" letter! You won't have one regret! I can't believe I'm down to 33 days until I leave Honduras. What a life I've stepped in to...and it is only going to get better! Be sure to let me know where you're headed!

A Daring Adventure said...

It's Friday, and that means that the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up - and you're on it!

Here is the link:

(If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you, and/or do not want me to reference you in the future, please also contact me.)


Debi said...

A Daring Adventure is a fun blog, with bits and pieces from many other Foreign Service blogs. Makes for great reading and...she reads me...and includes me sometimes!