When you have the world’s fifth largest land area, seventh largest population and the twelfth largest GDP, you had better take hazmat seriously. One way Brazil addresses hazmat threats is through its military’s 1st Battalion of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense.
With nearly 300 members, the team says it is the most specialized outfit in the country. It has specialized vehicles ready to support hazmat incidents in any area of the country. Additionally, it has mobile laboratories, various decontamination equipment for personnel or material, and the most modern chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear detectors, coming from different countries.
After its participation in World War II, the Brazilian military knew a section focused on hazmat was necessary. And so in 1953, the CBRN division of the 1st Battalion was launched.
To stay sharp, the team trains weekly and ads in special training with other units. Once a year they do a training called Joint Dressage where they work together with the Navy, Air Force, Fire Department and other organizations. And they have several other trainings where they work together.
They also hold trainings within their headquarters where they individually train different military units for various possible situations.
They recently participated in a training to collect environmental samples in case of radiological or nuclear incidents. That training was done with the Institute of Radioprotection and Dosimetry, an institution linked to the Research and Development Directorate of the National Nuclear Energy Commission.
It was part of the Brazilian Nuclear Program Protection System’s annual activities. Participants were trained on procedures for collecting environmental matrices in areas possibly contaminated with radioactive materials, obtaining water, soil and vegetation samples, and following the recommendations and techniques for a real nuclear or radiological emergency situation.
And there is good reason for that training. One of the team’s biggest wins came on a radiological accident in Goiânia. They also played a key role in protection during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The team’s biggest challenge is making the public better understand its value. The public knows it exists, but is unaware of the depth of the work the team does, it says.
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