ARLINGTON, Va. -- More than 800 civilian and military personnel safely returned to work after multiple tests of a suspicious package and unknown substance at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Arlington yielded negative results for hazardous material April 18. At approximately 10:25 a.m., emergency personnel from Naval Support Activity (NSA) Washington, Arlington County Fire Department and Hazmat Response Team responded to the incident inside of Building 12 located on the base. Nearly 800 personnel were evacuated from the location as multiple tests for hazardous substances were conducted on the suspicious package in the form of a letter. All materials were cleared for hazardous material by the Arlington Hazmat Response Team. "Looking at how we responded there, I think my guys handled it very well," said Cmdr. David Varner, Naval Support Activity (NSA) Washington commanding officer. "The building was evacuated and we had great coordination, not only internally with tenant commands, but multi-agency coordination with Arlington County Fire and Hazmat Response Team, Navy Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force." In order to remain prepared and ensure first responders are trained properly, exercises are conducted periodically at the installation and region level. NSA Washington conducted a Tabletop Exercises that same morning in response to the nations heightened alert for suspicious packages and hazardous materials.
"We did a Tabletop Exercise this morning during our meeting, so I had my Installation Training Officer throw a scenario out that nobody knew about to determine what and how we would respond should an incident like this happen," said Varner. "We learned some valuable lessons this morning and we got to execute them at 10:25 a.m."
Varner went on to say that although his training team and emergency response personnel are always prepared, the impromptu exercises allowed his team to respond with the advantage of having the incident fresh in their minds.
"Communication was the key between the Incident Command Post, the Emergency Operations Center that was stood here on the Washington Navy Yard and the Regional Dispatch Center to keep Naval District Washington informed," said Varner. Safety remained a top priority during the incident. According to NSA Washington Chief of Police Michael McKinney, during the evacuation first responders ensured all personnel were accounted for and in a single location.
"Any one that was directly affected by the incident that may have been injured or come in contact with the substance are kept at a separate location because we don't want them contaminating anyone else who was there," said McKinney. "That's our main goal to make sure everyone is accounted for and safe so we as first responders continue to do the job and take care of whatever the incident is that we are currently on." NSF Arlington is one of six support facilities within NSA Washington's area of operation and located on the southwest side of the Arlington National Cemetery. Its 30 acre complex houses 13 buildings including Defense Information Systems Agency and Navy housing.