Aug. 10, 2009

State, local first responders visit Virginia National Guard special response force

By Maj. T. Theim, CERFP OIC
& Lt. Col. D. Magaldi, Virginia Air Guard Public Affairs

SANDSTON, Va. — More than 25 commonwealth and local emergency first responders visited the headquarters of a highly trained Virginia National Guard all-hazards response team in Sandston on Aug. 5 to learn about the team’s capabilities and new equipment.


Capt. Shawn Talmadge, Virginia CERFP operations officer, explains the CERFP decontamination equipment to first responders during the Aug. 4 open house. (Photos courtesy of the Virginia National Guard CERFP)

The team is called a CERFP, pronounced “surf-p,” which stands for CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package.  And CBRNE, pronounced “See Bernie,” represents the wide range of incidents or mishaps that the team is trained to respond to: chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives.

The CERFP’s mission is to assist local, state and federal agencies in conducting consequence management after a terrorist attack or other type of man-made or natural disaster by providing capabilities to conduct mass decontamination, emergency medical services and casualty/fatality search and rescue/extraction.


1st Lt. Helen Dollar-Maples, 192nd Medical Group, explains the operation of the medical tent during a response to first responders attending the open house. (Photos courtesy of the Virginia National Guard CERFP)

First responders from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Technological Hazards Division, Virginia Department of Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Team, Hanover Fire-EMS Department, Henrico Division of Fire, Henrico Regional Hazardous Materials Response Team, Chesterfield Fire and EMS and the Metro-Richmond Urban Search and Rescue Team attended the open house.

After receiving a capabilities briefing, the group toured static displays including medical and decontamination tents, search and extraction equipment, and the team’s new command trailer. The Virginia CERFP was selected to be a beta-test site for a new command trailer manufactured by Mobile Medical International Corporation of St. Johnsbury, Vt.  The 35-foot trailer with a 20 ft. by 30 ft. attached tent system significantly increases and improves upon the space available for the CERFP command and control element to perform its operations.


The new CERFP Command & Control Trailer with the deployable, attached tent. (Photos courtesy of the Virginia National Guard CERFP)

“This is a great resource,” notes Maj. Terry Thiem, CERFP officer in charge. “We will start using the new trailer during upcoming field training and table top exercises. We are providing feedback to MMIC – the manufacturer – on improvements that could be made to the design for future mobile command centers. The capabilities built into this mobile unit will make it vital during real-world incident and disaster response situations.”

The 186-member CERFP is staffed by personnel from already established Army and Air National Guard units and is comprised of five elements: rescue search and extraction, decontamination, medical, fatality search and recovery and command and control.

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