How America responds to a chemical attack on US soil

ROK and US Marine Chemical attackCpl. Tyler Giguere/US Marine CorpsUS and Republic of Korea Marines move to safety during a gas attack drill.

Chemical agent attacks have long been a part of a military’s arsenal. During ancient times, while the Persians were under siege by the Romans, they pumped toxic gases made from sulphur crystals and bitumen into tunnels that the Romans were digging.

Centuries later, we’ve found more innovative methods to wreak havoc with agents that are naked to the human eye.

It is estimated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that the normal response time for a chemical attack is 12 hours — far too long for an emergency of this scope.

In addition to this deficiency, hospitals actually carry a limited amount of supplies for nerve agent exposures.

Even if a hospital was lucky enough to have an ample supply, their varied shelf lives make them unsustainable resource due to their costly nature.

To address these insufficiencies, a streamlined logistical system has been implemented by the CDC — their antidote of choice?

Meet Chempack.

Chempack firefighterCenter for Disease Control and PreventionFirst responders with a Chempack.

Chempacks contain antidotes to assist state and local officials in responding quickly during a nerve agent attack.

Initiated in 2002 with an overall budget of $6 million, the program has since expanded to 1,960 Chempacks strategically located in 1,340 locations in the US.

In fact, more than 90% of the US population is an hour away from a Chempack.

Chempack locationsCenter for Disease Control and PreventionA map of Chempack coverage areas and allocations.

For obvious reasons, the specific location for each of these Chempacks is not disclosed to the public.

There are two different types of Chempacks: a version for first responders, which is used to treat up to 454 people; and a more robust version for hospitals, which is used to treat up to 1,000 people.

Each chempack unit contains the antidotes
to prevent human nervous system failure, such as Diazepam, which reduces the severity of chemically-induced convulsions.

To deliver these agents, the Chempack also includes military grade MARK 1 autoinjectors that are loaded with doses of the antidotes.

Chempack internalsCenter for Disease Control and PreventionThe components of a Chempack.

In densely populated areas like New York, officials have created mobile Chempack units, where a designated driver can leave their location within three minutes, resulting is a faster response time.

With US National Intelligence Director James Clapper stating
that terrorist organisations, such as ISIS, were already planning on using chemical weapons towards the US, the CDC’s Chempacks may prove to be a public necessity.

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