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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2017 Vol. 64 No. 12

Panhandle Regional Preparedness Conference

For the past eight years, the Panhandle Regional Preparedness (PRPC) Conference has ensured that the responders in the Texas Panhandle - both paid and volunteer- have had access to topical and timely knowledge and training at very little cost to them- and this year was no exception.

Speakers for the 2017 conference included Dr. Kevin Kloesel, the University Meteorologist for the Office of Emergency Preparedness at the University of Oklahoma, with a presentation entitled More Than Meets the Eye; Decision Making in the Face of Weather Hazards. Judge Judy Hobbs, Williamson County Justice of the Peace followed with a presentation entitled Fatality Management Planning: Retrospect Review of the 1997 Jarrell Tornado.

This year's keynote speaker was Dr. Igor Shepherd, a former Russian military physician and Strategic Rocket Forces officer, who had first-hand experience treating those who responded to the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Plant incident. Dr. Shepherd then hosted a break-out session regarding the mass triage and decontamination of a large amount of radiologically contaminated and/or wounded persons.

Dr. Shepherd's keynote address regarding the Chernobyl Power Plant failure was enlightening. As Dr. Shepherd talked, he kept saying things that made my jaw drop, for instance:

-The Chernobyl "liquidators" (the civil and military personnel who dealt with the radiological consequences) were told they could be a "hero of the Soviet Union" and help with the radioactive cleanup, or receive a bullet.

-The KGB (Committee for State Security) was one of the first to arrive from the outside area to ostensibly assist in the cleanup efforts- pulling along an incinerator that was used to dispose of evidence (whether that consisted of incriminating documents or workers that perished due to severe radiation poisoning).

-Several (around 200) children were taken off of one of the trains that evacuated the town of Pripyat (the town near the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant), separated from their families, and never seen again.

-The rest of the world was not told of the event until several downwind countries started complaining that their radiation monitors were going off; even then, Russian officials were loath to admit that one of their reactors had failed, and was releasing airborne radiation into the atmosphere.

-Fruits and vegetables did continue growing, in fact, they more than tripled in size, and became very sweet, due to the granulation of the sugar inside of the fruit- this led to the increased consumption of the radiologically contaminated fruit.

After the keynote address, Dr. Shepherd ran a hands-on demonstration on how to triage and decontaminate a large number of radiological victims, and how to keep from shutting down the hospital due to radioactive contamination. He focused on using low-technology and time-proven methods for decontamination such as using baby wipes for spot decontamination, sweating out radiation contamination using lanolin and nitrile gloves, and using baby shampoo to decontaminate victim's hair.

Next year's PRPC conference will be held in Amarillo on September 26-27, 2018 and will feature award winning author William Forstchen. For more information, please contact Emily Nolte.

By Jordan Coulson

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