Calgary

Chemical weapons attack simulation at CFB Suffield underway

It’s about being better prepared to respond to horrific events like a chemical weapons attack in a war zone, and a lot more, says a Canadian Forces spokesperson at CFB Suffield.

'Sadly, we have seen stuff that happens in Syria, in other countries'

CFB Suffield chemical response training 0:39

It's about being better prepared to respond to horrific events like a chemical weapons attack in a war zone, and a lot more, says a Canadian Forces spokesperson at CFB Suffield.

"Sadly, we have seen stuff that happens in Syria, in other countries," Maj. Christian Lepage told reporters.

"We are prepared for a broad variety of scenarios: Afghanistan, the G7 summit, the flooding in the West, the fires in British Columbia."

The 15th annual NATO chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training exercise gives close to 400 military and medical personnel from 10 member countries the skills needed to respond to a range of incidents, including stabilizing patients who have been contaminated.

Maj. Christian Lepage says no one is actually contaminated in the simulation. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

"They don't know what they are facing," Lepage said of those being trained.

"They are going to use the detection equipment and all their knowledge in order to be able to detect, to try to have an idea what is going on. They are going to take samples, send them to labs and they are going to get a more precise idea of what the substance is doing. A physician needs to identify what is going on, look at the patient, the symptoms, before making a judgment."

CFB Suffield in southeast Alberta is perfect for training like this. In fact, it's the only area approved for it by the federal government.

"For security reasons, we need vast space to be able to do business. This centre is the only place in Canada that has been mandated by the government to be able to host live-agent training and do that type of research. We don't want to create a threat that is transmittable and difficult to treat. All the substances are used under really strict rules in order to protect everyone."

They don't know what they are looking at in the simulation. It's about using detection equipment and the training to arrive at conclusions. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

But no one is actually exposed to chemicals. It's about preparation.

"We are not contaminating people for real," Lepage said. "We are trying to be all encompassing, all potential threats."

The training has been offered to about 4,000 NATO personnel over the past 15 years.

This year's three weeks of training ends Friday.