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    Washinton National Guard Homeland Response Force FEMA Region X trains with Environmental Protection Agency's Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT) Program

    Washington National Guard Homeland Response Force FEMA Region X trains with Environmental Protection Agency's ASPECT

    Photo By Spc. Brianne Kim | The Washington National Guard's Homeland Response Force FEMA Region X conducted a...... read more read more



    Story by Pfc. Brianne Kim 

    Joint Force Headquarters - Washington National Guard

    CAMP MURRAY, Wash. - The Washington National Guard's Homeland Response Force (HRF) FEMA Region X is continuously training and preparing to respond in the event of a local, state or regional emergency. The Homeland Response Force responds to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosive threats, as well as large scale natural and man-made disasters.

    In order to improve and be as prepared as possible to better serve the communities of Washington State and Region X, the HRF is always looking to improve their training by trying new emergency response techniques or conducting joint training with other organizations.

    On Nov. 1, 2014, in Seattle, the HRF conducted a joint training exercise with the Environmental Protection Agency's Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT). The ASPECT is the only airborne real-time chemical and radiological, infrared and photographic imagery platform in the U.S.

    “The ASPECT is the nation’s only 24/7/365 [sic] airborne asset that can do chemical, radiological and situational awareness in one single aircraft,” said Capt. John Cardarelli, U.S. Public Health Service officer, detailed to the U.S. EPA.

    “The whole doctrine behind the ASPECT program is to collect airborne remote sensed chemical, radiological and situational awareness information and data,” said Mark Thomas, the ASPECT program manager. “Then to put that data into a format that can be rapidly provided to the first responders.”

    The ASPECT program originated from an Army research program called Safeguard in 1995, said Thomas, who has worked on the project since it was first created. When the Army finished the Safeguard program in 2000, it transitioned over to the EPA, who modified it to detect a broader range of chemical and radiological contaminates and named it the ASPECT.

    The ASPECT program can now detect over 75 compounds within a matter of seconds and, with a little more time, can detect 500 additional compounds. The ASPECT is designed to assist first responders, such as the HRF, by detecting, locating and identifying hazardous contaminates and relaying that information back to responders on the ground within five minutes of initial detection.

    “We simulated lost industrial radioactive sources in the Spokane area. We had a team over in Spokane that hid the sources in a racetrack area,” said Thomas. “We flew a flight pattern over that area, located the sources and then were able to give the position information and isotope identification of the sources to the HRF.”

    “This [the ASPECT] gives us a lot of information prior to getting there for picking where we want our staging area and how we want to approach this, so that we're minimizing our exposure,” said Capt. Wesley Watson, a nuclear medical science officer with the 10th Civil Support Team. “Not only that but it gives us an image overlay.”

    The ASPECT can give first responders several images including a base map, an aerial image, an infrared plume image, a radiological map and a chemical identification/concentration graph. These images can be very useful for first responders to plan their approach to a situation in the safest and most effective way possible.

    “I was able to plug into the Defense Connect Online [DCO] where [HRF] assets opened up a guest account. I logged in as a guest and [the HRF] gave me host privileges, so I could share my screen with anybody who had access to that DCO account,” exclaimed Cardarelli. “Anyone anywhere that has access to DCO would be able to actually observe what is being collected on the aircraft near real-time while the exercise is going on.”

    The ability to relay information between agencies is critical to the success of first responders. Information is not useful if it cannot be communicated effectively between first responders working on the ground and personnel at the information center, explained Watson.

    “I feel that the scientists that are working the ASPECT program, did a really great job of getting necessary information to us in a way that is easily accessible and understandable to us,” said Watson. “I definitely recommend that people become familiar with the program. It's a tool to be utilized and something that enhances your response if utilized in the appropriate way.”

    Although the collaborative training proved to be successful, there were minor challenges that the HRF and the ASPECT team had to overcome together.

    “As a civilian agency it's critical and important that in times of need that I know how to deal with the uniformed services, like the National Guard, and I think likewise they know how to deal with me,” said Thomas.

    “The biggest challenge that we have is being able to speak a common language to each other,” said Sgt. Maj. Shawn Powell, HRF Region X senior enlisted adviser “Whenever you're working with first responders on an incident site there has to be a commonality in language and communication.”

    The EPA and members of the ASPECT team look forward to the opportunity to work with the Washington National Guard HRF Region X again, while the HRF looks forward to the possibility of incorporating them into future training exercises.

    “This is actually the first time that we have done a full field exercise with any HRF and we certainly hope that this will be the first of many across the country,” said Cardarelli.

    “I was very impressed with the way the HRF operated,” said Thomas. “They were able to pull our data in and put it into their status reports to satisfy their needs.”

    “I think they were incorporated very well and based on what they brought to the table for this exercise we'd like to incorporate them into future exercises,” said Powell.

    “The agency itself is looking forward to developing these relationships with the Department of Defense, the National Guard Bureau and other federal agencies to let them know about this unique asset and its capabilities that they can use in any type of response,” said Cardarelli. “In the real-world response, an activation is simply a phone call away from the EPA's Emergency Operations Center.”



    Date Taken: 11.01.2014
    Date Posted: 11.06.2014 18:47
    Story ID: 147261
    Location: SEATTLE, WA, US 

    Web Views: 412
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