Veteran Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant maintenance workers are ensuring safe toxic area entries by mentoring less experienced technicians.
“My first experience making a toxic area entry was a little nerve-wracking,” said Drew Norton, ordnance technician, PCAPP. “When you get in there with someone experienced and he knows what to do, it helps to calm you down.”
Working in groups of two, technicians can safely perform one toxic area entry per day while wearing the Demilitarization Protective Ensemble. The DPE is a fully encapsulating outer garment that operates at positive pressure to ensure complete protection against inward leaks while maintenance is performed in potentially toxic areas.
For his first entry, Norton was accompanied by Jeff Mecomber, instruments and control technician, who has more than seven years of hands-on practice. Before making an entry, Mecomber trains rookies using a breathing hose practice system. During the actual entry, Mecomber provides reassurance and direction as maintenance work is performed.
“That’s part of what my job is,” Mecomber said. “We go in and take things apart. We know what can be wasted out and know what needs to be decontaminated so that we can put it back together. We’re trying to restart munitions processing as fast as we can.”
Reflecting on his first toxic area entry, Norton said, “Not a lot of people do this so it’s a once in a lifetime kind of job. Just don’t forget your composure.”