NNSA Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) member training
A DOE/NNSA Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) member training

A nuclear or radiological incident would be challenging, not only to those impacted, but also to those charged with responding, many of whom may not have the training needed to know how to effectively react to the situation. To address this concern and raise awareness of potential nuclear and radiological threats, NNSA’s Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation (CTCP), in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), conducted a virtual training for state and local public safety representatives and emergency responders in the Memphis area. Entitled, “Radiological Fundamentals, Preparedness, and Training,” it was held in late January.

The course was designed to raise awareness of nuclear and radiological threats among federal, state, and local entities and prepare them to respond effectively to those threats. The online training familiarized participants with concepts related to responding in a contaminated or irradiated environment, particularly from a law enforcement perspective.

“It is important for us to continue connecting with our state and local partners virtually, while in-person training is suspended, so we can maintain capacity-building initiatives,” said Jay A. Tilden, NNSA Associate Administrator and Deputy Under Secretary for NNSA’s CTCP office. “Being able to respond across the country is a significant priority of the National Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Terrorism. The most successful responses to both natural disasters and man-made threats often depend on the degree to which state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities are empowered and prepared.”

The two-and-a-half hour interactive workshop included training on radiation basic characteristics and guidance on the levels of danger that radiation poses. The regional FBI Field Office focused on radiation-related security concerns and how federal, state, and local responders coordinate to protect the community from such incidents.

More than 115 people, including Congressional staffers, attended the virtual event on Jan. 27. To maximize engagement and information retention, the facilitators employed features such as polling, breakout sessions, question-and-answer, video scenarios, and group discussions.

The CTCP group leading the training, the Office of Nuclear Incident Policy and Cooperation, suggests that the course is particularly relevant to first responders, from law enforcement and firefighters, to emergency response workers, including medical personnel. Local and state governments, along with business and industry, can all benefit from greater awareness on how to respond to potential nuclear and radiological incidents.

Tilden identified one silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic. “CTCP has pivoted many of its training events to virtual environments, which has made them more accessible to smaller organizations. While many major metropolitan areas receive significant resources to contend with WMD threats, reaching mid-sized communities, including state and local entities that typically do not receive this type of training, deepens the Nation’s capabilities,” he said.

CTCP plans to conduct monthly NNSA/FBI courses throughout 2021. In addition to the recent training, CTCP has conducted the virtual course for personnel in the Kansas City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Albany, N.Y., regions.

The mission of CTCP is to counter and respond to nuclear and radiological threats through innovative science, technology, and policy-driven solutions. To effectively prepare for these threats, CTCP considers a range of potential scenarios in its training courses. Its current virtual courses include training in radiation fundamentals, crisis communications, nuclear incident response, and mechanisms for requesting federal assistance.

Read more about the CTCP mission and offices here.