Crews train for WMD attacks

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Emergency crews on Tuesday worked to save actors from a staged chemical attack as part of response training for attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.

Local crews and a Columbus-based National Guard unit were part of the action at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center. WKBN and WYTV were the only news outlet invited to view the training.

The emergency crews were responding to a fake chlorine gas attack on an auditorium full of actors.

Mahoning County Hazmat, Canfield Joint Fire District, Austintown Fire Department, St. Elizabeth Health Center, the Cleveland Clinic emergency helicopter team and the 52nd Civil Support Team Weapons of Mass Destruction National Guard Unit all participated in the event expected to last the rest of Tuesday.

“We’re a 22-man team,” said 52nd Civil Support Team WMD Unit Col. Jeffrey Suver. “We have eight vehicles and whenever we roll specifically for something this size, we take everything with us.”

During the first phase, responders evacuated the building and decontaminated actors in the parking lot.

“That will also trigger the FBI, Homeland Security, Mahoning County Health Department,” said Assistant Mahoning County Hazmat Chief Sil Caggiano. “Ordinarily we’d call additional Hazmat teams to assist.”

The Cleveland Clinic helicopter actually transported several actors to St. Elizabeth Health Center to make training as real as possible.

Phase two will include the National Guard unit investigating inside the auditorium and building to find if there are any other dangers inside.

The WMD unit uses high-tech equipment most departments are unable to afford. The team is trained to detect, analyze and asses any dangers while working with local agencies.

“Once you know these people, they know you,” Caggiano said. “They know your capabilities and it makes for a seamless transition for one activity to another.”

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