ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Mobile Labs and Kits Team was awarded a patent in July 2011 for the All Hazards Receipt Facility, a mobile laboratory.

"These mobile laboratories are the key to ensuring the safety of lab personnel by taking in an unknown sample directly into a controlled environment. It makes safety the number one priority when triaging the sample for identification," explained George Noya, ECBC Mobile Labs and Kits team leader.

The AHRF includes specific containment areas that are compliant with BioSafety level 2 and BioSafety level 3 standards. The AHRF was requirement funded and project managed by the Department of Homeland Security, and ECBC's Mobile Labs and Kits Team designed, developed, fabricated and integrated the facility.

It features a BSL-3 glovebox that is connected to a bleaching and decontamination station that has an airlock to the outside, so that unknown samples can be processed while remaining under engineering controls. The special engineering controls for the AHRF include an onboard air-handling system that provides air conditioning, filtration and exhaust, and maintains the appropriate BSL-2 and BSL-3 pressure differentials.

During the period following the terrorist attacks of September 11, and the anthrax releases that occurred shortly thereafter, public health laboratories in the U.S. became inundated with potentially harmful specimens that needed to be assessed and identified rapidly. Most public health laboratories lacked the training and equipment to analyze and accept a broad range of chemical and biological hazards.

Nova said the AHRF is designed to address all these concerns. Inside the AHRF the samples will always be under engineering controls, allowing them to be processed quickly while providing contamination protection to fixed facilities. In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security, which funded the AHRF, built two prototypes of the mobile facilities. They were each independently evaluated and are currently in use. One is located at the Environmental Protection Agency Region 1 Laboratory in North Chelmsford, Mass., and the second located at the New York State Public Health Laboratory, New York State Department of Health in Albany, N.Y.

ECBC senior mechanical engineer Luis Enrique Faure added, "The All Hazards Receipt Facility was built on a single practical and simple idea, and will quite possibly save lives and millions of dollars in the future."