The E.F. Bullene Chemical Defense Training Facility tested their ability to handle a medical crisis Monday during their quarterly Chemical Accident and Incident Response exercise.

"It's part of our annual evaluation on both the personnel and the facility," said Dave Schodlatz, Chemical Surety specialist. "We look at how the staff handles the situation and if we have the right materials on hand to address it."

The exercise scenario involved a Soldier becoming ill while in the "hot" area of the facility and started to display symptoms of nerve agent exposure.

On Monday, the exercise called for the victim to become unconscious and required the Soldier to be evacuated through decontamination to the CDTF's medical area, Schodlatz said.

Referred to as a "cut out," the exercise tests the response of the medical personnel, but also of the entire CDTF staff as nearly everyone has a role in the process, including instructors handling the initial incident, through the medical personnel, to the monitoring team. The monitoring team has to be certain that any contamination is dealt with and that no additional personnel are exposed to the nerve agent, Schodlatz explained.

Most cut-out situations are not related to exposure to nerve agent, said Daniel Murray, CDTF director.

"We have so many mitigation measures in place already that exposure (to a nerve agent) is very unlikely," Murray said. "We have never had anyone training at the CDTF exposed to a nerve agent, but we have had cut outs."

The most likely causes of cut outs involve students with a seasonal illness, such as the flu, dehydration, fatigue brought on by lack of nourishment or anxiety of being in the protective gear in a hot environment, added Karen Williams, CDTF paramedic.

To mitigate the risks of a cut out, students are subjected to a medical screening prior to entry; they are monitored for hydration and heat exposure; and all students have to eat breakfast prior to training, Murray said.

"Failure to eat a good, hearty breakfast can result in an individual being denied the opportunity to train that day," Murray said.

"Cut outs are few and far between -- eight in the last 14 years," Murray said. "We rehearse the entire cut out process every quarter. It's a documented training requirement that we have imposed."

"Frequent rehearsals ensure that our paramedics and training support team members understand all the procedures and can execute flawlessly," Murray added.

"Regardless of the cause of the cut-out, the result must be the same -- zero mistakes," Williams said.