The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) co-organised a training course for first responders from all five OPCW regions with the German Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), which is situated in the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community. The course was held at the BBK’s Federal Academy of Civil Protection and Civile Defence (BABZ) in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, from 12 to 16 September 2022.
The objective of the course was to enhance the chemical emergency management capabilities under the national protective programmes of the OPCW Member States. Experts from the BABZ and OPCW, supported by an instructor from the People Protection Institute of Czech Republic provided first responders with the knowledge of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), chemical weapons, basic principles of sampling, detection, personal protection, and psycho-social effects of exposure to chemical weapons and toxic industrial chemicals.
The theoretical segment was followed by active learning and hands-on training related to responding to a chemical attack or incident involving toxic chemicals. The practical segment focussed on the use of protective equipment and the fundamentals of chemical warfare agents. Participants also practiced conducting sampling and analysis in contaminated areas, chemical detection, decontamination, and establishing an incident command and control system.
In his opening remarks, Mr Ralph Tiesler, President of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance of Germany, emphasised Germany’s commitment to support the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. He welcomed cooperation with the OPCW in assisting other State Parties to build the knowledge and skills of their first responders to strengthen national and regional preparedness to deal with incidents involving toxic chemicals.
The course was conducted under Article X of the Chemical Weapons Convention (Assistance and Protection Against Chemical Weapons) as a first part of the annual international training cycle which will be followed by an advanced training course and field exercise later in 2022.
The training was attended by 14 representatives seven OPCW Member States: Azerbaijan, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, Panama, and Ukraine, and received financial support from Germany.
Under Article X of the CWC, Member States “have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, material and scientific and technological information concerning means of protection against chemical weapons.”
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 99% 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.