In the midst of the world's trouble, it's easy to wonder about local preparedness.
Earlier this month a conspicuous number of emergency vehicles descended on a Eustis parking lot on U.S. 441 raising more than a few eyebrows.
Although the presence of the vehicles was ominous, the reason for them was reassuring and positive. A specialized unit of the Florida National Guard used the building to stage an exercise to familiarize themselves with some of the current potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats and prepare responders for their annual re-certification.
The National Guard's 48th Civil Support Team (CST) led by Lt. Colonel Thomas Benton, is one of the nation's first lines of defense against CBRN threats. When local first responders believe an incident may involve such a serious threat, they can request assistance from the CST.
The 13-hour exercise challenged participants with two simulated chemical scenarios, two simulated biological scenarios and one simulated explosives scenario. Eustis Fire Department Chief Michael Swanson provided logistical support and Deputy Chief Scott Davis played the role of the Incident Commander during the exercise. Personnel from Lake County, Mount Dora and Eustis fire departments observed the exercise and interacted with the specialized unit.
"This was primarily an opportunity for the Fire Department and Eustis Leadership Team to meet and observe how a Civil Support Team would function if needed," said Chief Swanson. "While Lake County does have a Hazardous Material Team, the CST would be the next tier in response if an event escalated."
The exercise was coordinated by a private contractor, HMTX, which provides emergency planning and training to law enforcement, fire services and public health agencies.
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