Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package
What is it? Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Packages, or CERFPs, consist of approximately 186 Soldiers and Airmen that are specially trained to respond to a weapons-of-mass-destruction incident. Each CERFP contains a Command and Control section, a decontamination element, a medical element, and a search and extraction element. CERFPs are currently assigned to each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regions, with additional teams assigned to Hawaii for response in the Pacific due to the long distances, and West Virginia due to the high threat to the National Capitol Region for a total of 12 teams.
What has the Army done? The Army has developed CERFPs to work closely with the 55 established Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs) to provide a more robust capability. Unlike the CSTs, which are dedicated units of National Guard personnel on active duty, the CERFPs are comprised of 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 to 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 is from an Army National Guard Chemical Company, and the medical element is from an Air National Guard Medical Group. These organizations maintain their original mission but are given additional training and equipment that builds on the skills they already possesses to accomplish this mission.
In addition to their normal military equipment, they are issued state of the art commercial equipment and are exploring new methods of performing their duties. Washington's CERFP (FEMA region 10) and the local EMS team out of the Redmond Fire Department tested a web-based mobile patient tracking system called MobileIRIS (Mobile Incident Response Information System). The MobileIRIS system, developed by Lomedex Corporation, consists of bar-coded bracelets and rugged handheld computers. The handhelds use imaging technology and multiple wireless radios for wireless communication, however no decision has been made on the procurement of a particular patient tracking system.
What efforts does the Army have planned for the future? This on-going program of preparedness 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 as a proof of concept; Congress has now funded five additional CERFPs, for a total of 17.
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 weapons of mass destruction in the United States. They are designed to fill the 6-72 hour gap in our Nation's ability to provide mass casualty patient decontamination, medical triage, and treatment and extraction from a contaminated environment.