KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A branch of the National Guard that goes to areas requiring hazmat response was training in Kalamazoo on Thursday.
The 22-person team with the 51st Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team were practicing for how they would respond to agencies that requested their help.
"For example, let’s say a firefighting team goes into a building and finds a device that is dispersing chemicals, and that could be a threat to the general public. If they don’t know what it is, they give us a call," said 51st Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team Commander Lt. Col. Kelly Black.
The team frequently works with SWAT and bomb teams, local agencies like police and fire, and sometimes the FBI or Secret Service. They are Michigan based.
"There is at least one civil-support team in every state. There is one in every territory. It has 22 personnel. Four of them are Air Force and the rest of them are Army. We all come under the National Guard umbrella," said Lt. Col. Black.
The 51st works with chemical, biological, nuclear and even radiological hazards.
EXCLUSIVE: The 51st Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, a branch of the National Guard that responds to hazmat situations were training in #Kalamazoo this afternoon.— Lauren Kummer (@LaurenKummerTV) September 30, 2021
They responds to nuclear, radiological, chemical & biological incidents. @FOX17 pic.twitter.com/rVPW8tbBtG
To keep their skills sharp, they'll host four to eight full-scale exercises each year, focusing on different scenarios happening around the country.
"In this case, we have a coworker had introduced something to poison their coworkers in the cafeteria. The way it was done suggests that it may not be a simple poison but a complex weapon," said Lt. Col. Black.
"For biological and radiological scenarios, the scenarios are pretty straightforward. For this particular scenario, it is very heavily weighted challenge-wise towards the administration, the command, the operations, the communications folks to really challenge them," said HazardID.com President William Bennett.
The trainings are used for ongoing preparedness to keep them on their toes.
"From start to finish, what we are looking at is someone gave us a call, a civil authority whether it is a governor, mayor, emergency manager, police, fire. From that we come in figure out the threat, help them figure out how to address it and help them figure out their cleanup and then we come back to base," said Lt. Col. Black.
The 51st's most recent response was on the east side of the state to a gasoline leak at Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant. In that situation around 10,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes.