Key to Emergency Response Found in PCAPP Communication Systems

Pueblo plant staff performs drills to demonstrate their readiness for operations. In this scenario, an employee who has been exposed to mustard agent is being lifted into an ambulance for transport to the Pueblo plant’s Medical Clinic.

Have you ever stopped to consider the different modes of communication you use in just one day?

Experts say there are up to 10 forms of communication. Let’s take a look at how staff at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) communicate.

At PCAPP, the communications system is comprised of the Secured Radio System (SRS), Demilitarization Protective Ensemble (DPE) radios and the public address system. “Our communications system was turned over from systemization to operation at the end of last year, allowing us to get into the business of entries and site wide exercises,” said Heather McCrory, plant shift supervisor.

The SRS is a two-way radio system used for communications between plant personnel in all aspects of operations, except for toxic area entries. Control room operators have a two-way communications dispatch console with channels capable of simultaneous activity, with each channel enabling a small handheld radio to communicate across a great distance.

The DPE Radio Communication System is a dedicated, limited range, secure system which provides a means of communication between personnel making toxic area entries in a DPE suit and support, maintenance and medical personnel and control room operators. The radio is strapped onto the wearer’s waist or shoulders, a microphone strapped around the throat and a handset.

The PCAPP Public Address and Pager System provides voice communication from the central control station in the Control and Support Building to designated zones making general information announcements to plant personnel. The system allows staff to be paged, sounds alarms, and gives mass notifications and facility evacuation instructions, if necessary.

“In order to go into agent operations, one of the things we have to do is perform exercises to show we are proficient in emergency response,” McCrory continued. Currently, exercises are being performed every Friday. Provisional operations, a period in which operations and maintenance staff gain proficiency and complete certifications, have been completed in the Enhanced Reconfiguration Building and in the yard (utilities). Provisional operations in the Agent Processing Building, which includes practicing DPE entries utilizing direct observation and DPE radios, will begin in early spring.

Integrated Operations Demonstrations, the final phase of the Operational Readiness Review process whereby PCAPP proves that it is ready for operations, will begin later this year.

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