By Jane GervasoniMarch 22, 2010
We have all seen photos of the devastation in Haiti caused by the recent earthquake and asked ourselves how we could help. Well, Frank Carcirieri, an environmental scientist and USAPHC (Prov) liaison to U.S. Southern Command, immediately reached out to offer help to those working in the aftermath of the disaster.
His help focused on the military personnel sent to assist the people of Haiti in rescue and cleanup operations.
"We were proactive," Carcirieri explained as he spoke about offering information and technical support to associates in SOUTHCOM from his office at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
He and his colleagues in the Deployment Environmental Surveillance Program focused on providing Army preventive medicine personnel on the ground with the equipment and know-how needed to make sure environmental conditions were safe for Army responders. This includes things like testing water, air and soil to identify natural or man-made substances that might be harmful to health.
"The USAPHC (Prov) scientists have assisted U.S. deployed personnel in determining the potability of local water, soil contamination, air quality, sanitation concerns, vector and disease surveillance, as well as avoidance of exposure to hazards such as smoke generated from the burning of garbage by locals," according to Carcirieri.
"Using laboratory analyses, we have also given guidance on field sanitation, hazardous waste, and industrial hygiene concerns such as asbestos," he continued.
Samples were sent back to the laboratory at APG to determine what if any contamination was present.
"We are providing desktop consultations and equipment support to deployed personnel to ensure that the people who are providing help to the Haitian people stay healthy themselves," he added.
Alex Franckewitz, engineering technician, and his team members, Pfc. Tyler Long, Deb Tracy and Georgia Bailey, packaged treated and untreated water sampling kits, soil kits, deployment environmental sampling backpacks, and air sampling equipment.
"It took an average of three days for the approximately 2,000 pounds of equipment that we shipped to arrive in Haiti to help the U.S. forces," said Franckewitz. He added that his team will continue to ship equipment and material as long as it is needed to support the mission of U.S. forces who are deployed.
Their work has garnered appreciation from SOUTHCOM officials already.
"The USAPHC has been critical to Joint Task Force Haiti's response to the disaster in Haiti. The ability to have testing conducted so quickly has been remarkable and able to guide and refine Soldier health-protection requirements, not only for the DOD but the other U.S. government agencies responding, too," said Lt. Col Eric G. Milstrey, chief of the Public Health Division Office of the SOUTHCOM command surgeon.
At the start of the mission, water was the biggest problem, according to USAPHC (Prov)'s Carcirieri. U.S. forces were able to drink bottled water, but they still needed water for washing and sanitary requirement, he said. Using reverse osmosis water purification equipment, preventive medicine personnel produced potable water to meet their needs, Carcirieri continued.
"There is still a lot going on in Haiti, and it will take time to help the people, but we are doing all we can to ensure the U.S. forces remain healthy in order to provide the assistance needed by the population," he added.