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Field hospitals gain chemical, biological protection


Army field hospitals will acquire the ability to ward off the ill effects from a nuclear, biological or chemical attack when the Chemically Protected Deployable Medical Systems (CP DEPMEDS) are fielded.

CP DEPMEDS outside
Patients are decontaminated before entering the facility. They stay in the airlock for one minute to purge any remaining contaminants before inprocessing.

Sent to a threat area, the protective kit will be assembled with the conventional hospital. The result will be a functional barrier against harmful warfare agents or fallout that allows the hospital to treat casualties without the use of protective gear or causing further harm.

“These hospitals are very large and difficult to move in a short amount of time. If attacked, you have to be able to protect the patients and staff for at least a 72-hour mission,” said David Haley, CP DEPMEDS manager on the Survivable Shelters Team at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick). “There may be no opportunity to move the patients to another hospital.”

CP DEPMEDS first operational test
Soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo., inprocess a mock patient during the CP DEPMEDS first operational test in 1997.

A series of TEMPER tents and ISO containers linked together with passageways offer nearly 32,000 square feet of treatment space. Up to 140 staff members can treat as many as 236 patients for three days in a clean, climate-controlled atmosphere.

The M-28 Simplified Collective Protection Equipment, a major component of the CP DEPMEDS, consists of chemical-resistant liners, litter and ambulatory tunnel airlocks, protective entrances, blowers and filters integrated into the hospital. To prevent contaminated air from entering the protected shelter, a generator-powered environmental control unit along with the M-28 blowers and filters create a steady overpressure by drawing in outside air, filtering it, and then blowing it into the shelters.

CP DEPMEDS inside
Up to 140 staff members can treat as many as 236 patients for three days in a clean, climate-controlled atmosphere. The CP DEPMEDS configuration is noticeable when in nuclear biological chemical mode.

An audible and visible alarm located at the end of each tent activates if the pressure drops too low. The environmental control unit also warms or cools the air to a comfortable temperature.

Other features added to the hospital are chemical and biological agent resistant gaskets for the ISO containers, a 20,000 gallon protected water distribution system that delivers 6,500 gallons of potable water per day, two chemical and biological- protected 12-person latrines, and waste management facilities. Another airlock chamber enables the staff to receive a pallet’s worth of supplies.

Passageways inside
Passageways with chemical-resistant liners connect the series of TEMPER tents and ISO containers to form the field hospital.

“It’s somewhat transparent from inside. It’s just when you go to the NBC mode that you notice that the hospital is different,” Haley said.

At the entrance is where the hospital appears modified. Tunnel airlocks for patients look like plastic tubes sticking out of a clear tent. Patients are decontaminated before entering the facility and stay in the airlock for one minute to purge any remaining contaminants before inprocessing.

Alarm
An audible and visible alarm located at the end of each tent activates if the pressure drops too low. Enough pressure is necessary to prevent contaminated air from entering the protected shelter.

The first operational test was held in August 1997 at Fort Carson, Colo. More than 400 soldiers successfully performed simulated medical operations while encapsulated in the facility for three days, Haley said. A second operational test and evaluation was held at Fort Devens, Mass., in August 1998.

After the CP DEPMEDS are approved for fielding, five systems will be pre-positioned around the world and the remaining seven will be stored in the Army war reserve at Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ark.


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