DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The City of Dallas is intentionally exposing some of its citizens to nerve gas and other chemical agents.
Six civilians and two city officials took part in a training to better prepare North Texans for natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
Natalyia Tarasenko was looking to make friends and help others when she joined the city’s Citizen Emergency Response Team. “I was new to Dallas, I didn’t have many friends so i tried to blend in with people,” says Tarasenko.
The 34-year-old loan advisor from The Colony had no idea her decision would lead to wearing a hazmat suit in a room with deadly nerve gas.
The week long training took place at FEMA’s Disaster Preparedness Center in Alabama. “We the civilians we outnumber the first responders so the more citizens that are involved and trained to help themselves and the community the better off we’ll be in a disaster,” says Cassandra Wallace, the emergency management specialist for the city of Dallas.
The Department of Homeland Security paid for the training, which coincided with Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. The team learned how to help their neighbors in the event of a natural disaster here.
But these ordinary citizens found themselves taking a big risk during the training to detect lethal chemical agents. “When we came out they draw our blood again just to make sure we didn’t pick up anything,” says Tarasenko, “It was a little terrifying but it was fine, we’re back would I do it again? I’m not sure.”
The City of Dallas plans to make the trips to FEMA’s training center on an annual or semi-annual basis. Anyone interested in joining the “CERT” team can contact the city’s Office of Emergency Management.