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Navy Evaluates Collective Protection in Expeditionary Medical Facility

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS130520-07

By Julius L. Evans

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (NNS) -- During May 2013, U.S. Navy Reservists and active duty forces constructed a Chemically Hardened Expeditionary Medical Facility at Naval Weapons Station Cheatham Annex, Williamsburg, Va., to test the integration of a collective protection system.

With a collective protection system, an Expeditionary Medical Facility is protected against chemical, biological and radiological exposure. Simply stated, a CH-EMF is an EMF with a collective protection system integrated. CH EMFs provide medical personnel the capability to operate without having to be fully outfitted in individual protective or mission oriented protective posture gear.

Expeditionary medical facilities are globally positioned to support combat operations worldwide. Self-supportive EMFs assure the ability of medical personnel to provide world-class medical care to wounded warriors in their most vital time of need.

Evaluation participants included the Expeditionary Medical Logistics Program Office, the Collectively Protected Field Hospital Program of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense Joint Project Manager for Protection, the U.S. Army Medical Department Board, the Construction Battalion Maintenance Units 202 and 303, the Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command, the Navy Medicine Education and Training Command, the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute and the Navy Reserves Expeditionary Medical Facility, Great Lakes One.

'This evolution was significant on a number of levels,' said William Hartmann, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Expeditionary Medical Logistics Program manager. 'The Navy is considering all aspects of collective protection for field hospitals. This month, we are evaluating the system under conditions similar to what may be expected in an operational environment.'

The CPFH Program is responsible for providing collective protection equipment used throughout the entire medical facility. Although this is the Navy's first experience with collective protection for EMFs, others have incorporated this unique method of protection in their facilities.

'Collectively protected field hospitals were deployed by both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force during Operation Iraqi Freedom in the event of a possible chemical or biological attack,' said Brian Rainer, the product manager for the CPFH Program.

'The protective aspect,' he continued, 'is accomplished by using filtration units. All outside air introduced into the hospital is first filtered with military grade filters and then environmentally conditioned. The filtered air is provided at an overpressure which prevents contaminants from entering the hospital. The overpressure is maintained by sealing the hospital with chemical and biological resistant liners. Personnel and patients enter and exit the hospital through special airlocks.'

During the evaluation phase, medical personnel were enclosed within the facility for 72 hours. Simulated patient scenarios were conducted to provide a realistic feeling to the event.

'Being locked in a field hospital for 72 hours provided the opportunity to prepare for a possible deployment and to train for a mass casualty event within an air-locked facility,' said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Caitlyn Strader of Hindsboro, Ill. 'I was excited to work with a diverse number of people from across the nation to learn new ways of approaching trauma injuries.'

The U.S. Army Medical Department Board, located at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, provides independent operational test and evaluation of medical and medical-related materiel and information technology products in support of the Army and Department of Defense acquisition process.

It provides assessments of emerging concepts, doctrine, and advanced technology applications applied to the delivery of healthcare, both on the battlefield and in fixed facilities. It conducted the CH EMF operational test.

'Collaboration of the elements to make this a successful collective protection system evaluation was a tremendous undertaking,' said Capt. Martin D. McCue, commanding officer, Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command, Cheatham Annex, Williamsburg, Va.
'Expeditionary Medical Facilities from prepositioned storage sites were brought here during Operation TRIDENT ARCH, an evolution in which EMFs are rotated from ashore and afloat locations to upgrade and retrofit as a part of their life cycle management.'

Now situated on a four acre training site, the EMF constructed at Cheatham Annex is playing host to practically every medical casualty situation that could be encountered by operational facilities in real-world situations.

And as expected, the collective protection system evaluation for the EMF has a good deal of attention. Results from the evaluation will be used to support a formal fielding decision by the JPEO-CBD for the CH EMF.

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