The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has launched a new Modular Online Training Programme for Russian speaking First Responders titled “Protection Against Chemical Weapons and Toxic Industrial Chemicals.” The initiative, co-organised with the International Rescuers Training Centre (IRT Centre) based in Belarus, supports the implementation of Article X of the Chemical Weapons Convention on Assistance and Protection Against Chemical Weapons and is designed to adapt to the constraints created by COVID-19.
The new training programme is a complementary tool supporting an eventual return to in-person training. It offers one basic and several specialised modules to be studied over six months and strengthens national preparedness to respond to accidents and incidents involving chemical weapons agents and toxic industrial chemicals. The new tool will help first responders build a sustainable set of theoretical knowledge and practical skills to ensure a timely, effective, and safe responses to such incidents.
Senior Programme Officer from the OPCW’s Assistance and Protection Branch, Mr Anton Martyniuk, underlined: “We anticipate up to one hundred first responders from Russian speaking Member States will complete the new Programme in 2021. Training participants are expected to gain advanced knowledge of the chemicals concerned, and the technical support and algorithms necessary for an effective response. First responders will also enhance their skills in the use of special equipment and appropriate response actions in chemical pollution zones.”
The first specialised training module – focussing on personal protection equipment and skills in chemical emergency response – was held from 25 to 27 May for professionals from Eastern Europe and Asia. Supported by a team of international instructors, the participants built knowledge about the most suitable personal protective equipment for a given scenario, and developed skills to determine the necessary level of protection while responding to chemical emergencies.
The course was attended by 84 professionals from 11 OPCW Member States: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
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 has been the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapon 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.