Fort Leonard Wood trained four teams of Soldiers and Marines in proper cleaning and disinfecting techniques in the event a mission-essential facility is affected by COVID-19.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert Lockwood, the regimental chief warrant officer for the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, said that although the given service members aren’t required to have Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear-specific backgrounds, they trained with the HAZMAT/Dismounted Reconnaissance Department at the Lt. Joseph Terry CBRN Responder Training Facility.
“We’re using our facilities and our training sites to show them how to clean offices, living quarters,” said Charles Dashiell, the HAZMAT/Dismounted Reconnaissance Department chief.
Dashiell added that everything was being done to federal standards.
“As we develop this process, we’re using all the information from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), as far as contact time, disinfectants, personal protective equipment,” Dashiell said.
The teams – one from each brigade and from the local U.S. Marine Corps Detachment – are designed to work in conjunction with trace teams, who track contacts, potential exposure and movement of those with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“The trace team does an interview with the patient, and we start going around place to place to see where their contacts have been and where they are,” Lockwood said. “If we identify some place like a building that this person has been in … it becomes a focal point for cleaning.”
He said that for the clean team to be activated, the building in question must be deemed mission-essential.
“If it is mission-essential, and it’s something that we have to have in order to complete our mission, we call in the clean team,” Lockwood said. “We have these teams that they’ll come in, go into that building, clean and disinfect all the surfaces and make sure that it’s safe to put people back.”
After cleaning, the teams then wait at least 24 hours before re-opening the building to ensure all aerosol particles in the structure have settled, Dashiell said.
Lockwood added that if a building is not considered mission-essential, then it is closed for 96 hours so the virus’ viability is eliminated. The building can then be cleaned by the building occupants with little danger of being infected.
Officials said this is just a safety procedure, and it should not be a cause for concern.
“The main goal of the Army is to make everything safe for our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and civilians and their families who work here,” Dashiell said. “This is just the cleanup. There’s no extra need for alarm for people out there.”
Lockwood explained how the virus is killed in the cleaning process and said if people at home want to sanitize their own living spaces, soap and water is their starting point.
“Good old-fashioned soap and water is your No. 1 line of defense,” he said. “It’s interesting because of the way (coronavirus) is – it’s an encapsulated virus. This is genetic material surrounded by proteins and a fatty casing. Much like when you wash your dishes and the soap breaks down the oils and the fat, it’s the same principle here. Soap does the same thing to viruses – it breaks down that fatty capsule … and when it does that, it helps end the virus’ viability. The CDC recommends that we clean with soap and water and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, so you get the knockout punch on those frequently touched surfaces.”