More than 2,000 individuals from local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot and the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, gathered in Pueblo, Colorado, May 3 for the final full-scale exercise to test their response to a chemical weapons stockpile emergency as part of the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, or CSEPP.
“Having everyone at the same table is an absolute necessity for effective information sharing, problem solving and overall program success,” said Dave Lucero, sheriff, Pueblo County.
The annual CSEPP event tested participants’ response capabilities to simulated emergencies, which are federally evaluated. While the potential for an emergency related to chemical weapons storage and destruction operations is unlikely, new scenarios are created each year for the federal exercise.
This year’s exercise involved a simulated chemical accident at the depot and a non-related emergency involving a rolled tanker near Runyon Sports Complex, requiring the activation of various Emergency Operations Centers, the Pueblo Community Joint Information Center and decontamination and treatment facilities.
“It’s bittersweet knowing this is the final exercise of this scope and magnitude that allows so many community partners to practice emergency response and to be evaluated and receive feedback from highly trained federal evaluators,” said Gayle Perez, public information officer, CSEPP.
CSEPP was created in 1985 when public law directed the Army to dispose of its aging chemical weapons inventory with maximum protection of the public and environment as its primary consideration. The program’s stated goal is to educate and enhance emergency preparedness in communities surrounding the chemical stockpile sites.