What is it?
The Army National Guard has 17 chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield-explosive–enhanced response force packages (CERFPs), each consisting of approximately 186 Soldiers and airmen distributed in a command and control section, a decontamination element, a medical element, and a search and extraction element. At least one CERFP is currently operating in each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regions. There are three each in Region 3 (Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia) and Region 5 (Illinois, Ohio, and Minnesota) to provide coverage for areas of high-population density in the North, Northeast, and National Capital Region; two in Region 9 (Hawaii and California) based on population density and geographic location; two each in Region 4 (Georgia and Florida) and Region 7 (Nebraska and Missouri) to support Southeast population density and provide prompt deployment capability in the event of a catastrophe such as Katrina. Redundant CERFPs, a total of 17, ensure capability is available for each FEMA region to mitigate risks associated with military force generation models. The 17 host CERFP states are New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado, California, Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, Hawaii, Washington, Virginia, Ohio, Georgia, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
What has the Army done?
CERFPs work closely with the 55 established Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs) to provide a more robust capability. CERFPs are specially trained to respond to a WMD incident. Unlike the CSTs, which are dedicated units of National Guard personnel on active duty, the CERFPs comprise existing National Guard units in traditional reserve status. They can be mobilized in State Active Duty, Title 32 or Title 10, status. They must be ready to deploy within six hours of notification to the site of a WMD incident, locate and extract victims in a contaminated environment or collapsed structure, perform medical triage, perform decontamination, and provide treatment as necessary to stabilize patients for evacuation. The search and extraction function is assigned to an Army or Air National Guard engineering unit; the decontamination element, to an Army National Guard chemical company; and the medical element, to an Air National Guard medical group. These organizations maintain their original mission but are given additional training and equipment that builds on existing skills to accomplish this mission.
In addition to their normal military equipment, the Soldiers are issued state-of-the-art specialized commercial equipment that meets the standards of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and they are trained to operate within the National Incident Management System.
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
This ongoing program requires that each CERFP maintain the expertise and readiness required for a quick and effective response to any catastrophic event. The program began with 12 CERFPs to validate the concept, but 5 more funded by Congress in FY 06 have been activated, for a total of 17 CERFPs in the National Guard.
Why is this important to the Army?
CERFPs are a key element of the Department of Defense's overall program to provide support to civil authorities in the event of an incident involving WMDs in the United States. They are designed to fill the 6- to 72-hour gap in our nation’s ability to provide mass casualty patient decontamination, medical triage, and treatment and extraction from a contaminated environment.