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Indian Crisis Teams to Receive WMD Response Training

Crisis management teams throughout India are to receive training in handling a disaster involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials, the Times of India reported on Monday (see GSN, Dec. 15, 2011).

National Disaster Management Authority Vice President M. Shashidhar Reddy said a training facility is to be set up in Nagpur and property has also been set aside in each Indian state for the construction of CBRN disaster response schools.

States are to be assigned to create their own crisis responder teams, which would be made ready to deal with the aftermath of a WMD attack, he said. Additionally, every atomic energy reactor in India is to have an emergency response team located in the vicinity in case of an accident.

"Already four battalions of the central paramilitary forces, drawn into the disaster response forces have been trained. The states shall draw from the state armed reserve forces," Reddy said. "These forces, however, will be solely kept for handling disasters and not be pressed into [other] duties."

The NDMA vice president said a drill would be carried out that would permit the CBRN response teams to practice maneuvers in a particular geography. "This way, they can act swiftly in times of need," Reddy said.

"There is very little knowledge in the public domain on dealing with radiation exposure. We also do not have a proper incidence response system in place in the event of such a disaster," he said. "In any such case of contamination, once it spreads beyond the plant site and forms threat to civilian population, the state administration too must step in and that's where this comes in."

The National Disaster Management Authority would like to supply its national responders with first-class gear, Reddy said.

The CBRN response schooling could involve training in the use of radiation sensors, Madras Atomic Power Station Director K. Ramamurthy said.

"Locating the source of radiation is most important, especially after the Mayapuri incident," he said, referring to the April 2010 incident in which radiation-contaminated scrap metal sickened at least seven people and sparked a widespread scare (see GSN, April 26, 2010).

"The forces will be trained how to use the radiation detection equipment," Ramamurthy said (R. Vasundara, Times of India, Feb. 6).

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