KINGSTON — Local, state and national authorities gathered in the University of Rhode Island’s (URI) Ryan Center Thursday as part of a large-scale chemical decontamination exercise dubbed “Exercise DOWNPOUR.” The training operation, which was placed on and financed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), was conducted in an effort to boost evidence of and data from chemically hazardous incident response procedures. Officials were analyzing the efficacy and speed of three different decontamination methods — dry decontamination, specialized decontamination and gross decontamination — in case of a hazardous chemical outbreak, like an industrial spill, a spill of chemicals in transit or the deliberate release of toxins from terrorists.
“About six months ago, we started this process of planning a large, full-scale exercise with numerous agencies from non-government to state authorities to quasi-state authorities to the federal government, and all of us came together, considering a research being brought to us out of England, by Health and Human Services,” stated Joe Reppucci, healthcare preparedness program coordinator in the Rhode Island Department of Health Emergency Preparedness and Response and also the co-chair of the Health Care Coalition of Rhode Island. “And they came to us and proposed this notion of an exercise and we loved the idea so we took it and we decided that we can do it and we looked for partners to use.”
Those partners included local fire departments, which led fire trucks and decontamination gear for the operation. Participating departments included — Hopkins Hill, North Providence and North and South Kingstown. Emergency medical assistance groups were also on-hand and coordinating with officials, together with a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representative, amongst others.
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