Emergency first responders from Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC) participated in a workshop to learn the full potential of two important tools for managing chemical emergencies – the Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER) and the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) conducted the online training from 1 to 5 February with the support of instructors from Peru and Spain.
Opening the event, OPCW’s Special Advisor on Assistance and Protection, Mr Shawn DeCaluwe, stated: “The OPCW attaches great importance to the full implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention’s assistance and protection provisions in Latin America and the Caribbean. The commitment to improving their countries’ chemical emergency response systems, even during these difficult times, is crucial.”
For handling emergencies involving hazardous chemicals, the participants explored the assistance the WISER and ERG systems offer such as substance identification, use of human health information, and containment and suppression methods. The online workshop also covered: personal protection against chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals, contaminant dispersion in the environment, as well as the set up and delimitation of safety and security zones.
The 46 participants came from a variety of civilian and military response backgrounds, including civil defence, hazmat equipped firefighters, and CBRN military units. They represented the following 15 OPCW Member States: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
This was the fourth online course for OPCW Member States in Latin America and the Caribbean held since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was organised to support the full and effective implementation of Article X (Assistance and Protection against Chemical Weapons) of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW, with its 193 Member States, oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997, it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
Over 98% of all declared chemical weapon stockpiles have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.