Exercising our Chemical Emergency Response Capabilities

The WSLH Chemical Emergency Response (CER) Unit participated in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exercise over the course of two weeks in late April and early May. The WSLH is one of only 10 Level 1 chemical emergency response labs in the country and serves a surge capacity lab for CDC.

The exercise scenario was the release of a toxin into a convention center.  In the scenario, more than 5,000 people were potentially exposed.

The WSLH initially received 40 samples to test for nitrogen mustards (a class of vesicant). The scenario called for 24 hour turnaround, and we finished within 8 hours of sample receipt. This particular testing came only to the WSLH as we were filling a gap for CDC.

The next week the WSLH received 500 samples to test for a metabolite of the nerve agent VX. Though we encountered some analytical problems, testing was completed in 42 hours.

The CER group performed exceptionally, particularly given the challenges of this particular exercise. About 2/3 of the samples were quantified for the VX metabolite.