Red Alert Speeds Response in Ricin Incident

Nevada_National_Guard_92nd_Civil_Support_Team_Photo_by_Sgt._1st_Class_Erick_Studenicka_USA

Red Alert Speeds Response in Ricin Incident

When a suspicious substance was found in a Las Vegas hotel room on Thursday, February 28, 2008, the Nevada National Guard 92nd Civil Support Team (CST) was called for assistance. The substance tested positive for ricin, a poison found naturally in castor beans.

Fast Notification, Fast Response

As soon as they received the call for assistance, the Commander of the 92nd CST at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Locke, quickly issued an alert using the Red Alert system, and within 2 minutes and 43 seconds, every single person on the team was notified, and on their way back to the unit.

The Nevada CST arrived on the scene in Las Vegas less than 60 minutes after the initial phone call. This is even more remarkable, considering it happened on a Thursday at 6:00 p.m., and the CST needed to move their large vehicles and specialized equipment about 20 miles from their unit.

Convenient Notification Options

When an alert is triggered for the Nevada CST, Red Alert notifies all members at the same time, with built-in retries and escalation options. When they receive an alert, members can confirm that they have received it. If Red Alert does not receive a confirmation from a member, it automatically escalates to a different contact method for that person. In this incident, Red Alert issued notifications to mobile, home, and work phones; and home and work e-mail addresses.

Because Red Alert offers several different ways to trigger alerts, along with various notification methods for responders, each organization can set up a customized notification system to handle alerts in the method that best meets their needs.

The Role of Civil Support Teams

In May 1998, President Bill Clinton announced that the Department of Defense would “form 10 teams to support state and local authorities in the event of an incident involving weapons of mass destruction.”

Currently, each U.S. state and territory has their own CST, which is comprised of full-time Army Guard and Air Guard personnel. Their role has also been updated from weapons of mass destruction teams to all hazard type teams. “We are a tool for the local first responders,” Locke said. “We are there to support them in any way they need. The CST has picked up the mission of basically being the point of the spear for any military requirements in a local community, whether that be the local, county, or state level.”

The Role of Red Alert

During emergency situations, it is imperative to get the CST to the location as soon as possible. Prior to using Red Alert for notifications, the Nevada CST used a manual phone tree, with two people each calling two or three people, and those people calling more members. In most cases, this would result in a much longer notification time.

Red Alert Emergency and Event Notification system provides the tools to notify the appropriate responders for emergencies, weather alerts, evacuations, as well as for daily, weekly, and monthly meeting and event reminders. Red Alert features convenient browser-based or phone-based access, to easily trigger alerts from virtually anywhere, along with data importing to save time and ensure accuracy, and real-time monitoring and reporting.

Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka, USA: Two members of the 92nd Civil Support Team take a sample of a simulated hazardous substance in a Sparks, Nevada, shopping mall during training November 25, 2005.

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