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  Airmen test medical decontamination shelter
1st Lt. Toni Tones - Osan Air Base, South Korea

Airman 1st Class Steven Randolph, left, and Senior Airman Roger Richards decontaminate a patient processing through the small shelter patient decontamination system. (Photo by 1st Lt. Toni Tones)
A 19-person team comprised of several Air Force specialties from the 51st Medical Group at Osan Air Base, South Korea, are doing their part to improve chemical and biological defense capability within the Air Force and Department of Defense.

The team operated a small shelter patient decontamination system, also known as a medical decontamination shelter, as part of the final restoration of operations Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration during the combat employment readiness exercise recently.

The 52-by-20 canvas facility, manufactured by Alaska Industry, is set up for ambulatory and nonambulatory patients contaminated with biological or chemical agents. It is located approximately 250 feet away from a medical treatment facility.

“The set up is similar to our internal process (in the hospital),” said Col. Frederick Schaeffer, 51st Medical Operations Squadron deputy commander. “The objective here is to decontaminate the patients prior to admitting them into a permanent facility.”

The team composition is also important, added Schaeffer. “We want to make sure we have the right Air Force specialties on the line to monitor the patients’ status as they process,” he said.

The first patient processed was a 180-pound mannequin. “We wanted to give them a contrast to working with real people who cooperate with them,” said Thompson. “When most nonambulatory patients come in, they will be in a state similar to the mannequin, unable to respond to what is requested of them.”

The first and most important step of the process is disrobing the patient, said Thompson. “It’s important to get the member out of the contaminated clothing without getting any agents on the person. Therefore it’s vital to remove the clothes in a certain order.”

After disrobing, the patient is washed down at different locations. Once through the line, a monitor checks the patient for any additional contamination. If no agents are detected, the patient proceeds to the medical facility for treatment.

(February 21, 2003)



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