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IAEA Conducts First Arabic-Language Training Course for First Responders in Radiological Emergencies

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Approximately 50 participants took part in a three-day virtual course on emergency preparedness in Qatar. (Photo: Qatari Ministry of Municipality and Environment)

The IAEA held its first-ever emergency preparedness and response (EPR) training course in Arabic last month for personnel in Qatar tasked to be responders in case of a nuclear or radiological emergency. The course was designed to help strengthen and implement Qatar’s EPR arrangements.

Organized in collaboration with the Qatari Ministry of Municipality and Environment and its Department of Radiation and Chemicals Protection, the virtual course took place from 9 to 11 June with some 50 participants. It focused on the responsibilities of first responders, activities associated with the incident and effective communication with the public.

“Having this course in Arabic has made it more inclusive and of greater practical benefit for the participants,” said Mohammed Al Suwaidi of the Ministry of Interior’s General Directorate of Civil Defence. “We felt comfortable, participated more and asked more questions. Training in Arabic enables us to engage a wider set of stakeholders.”

“This course is a first in three ways – it is the first course of this type in Arabic, the first based on new material we have developed for the updated Manual for First Responders to a Radiological Emergency which will be published in 2020, and the first offered virtually, to ensure that first responders in Qatar were still trained, even in times of COVID-19,” said Muzna Assi, an IAEA Emergency Preparedness Officer.

The training course covered a number of aspects across three modules, including  the structure of incident command systems, actions and activities associated with incident commanders from hazards assessments and management of the scene to personnel protection and site decontamination, and best practices for the protection of both first responders and the public.

While Qatar has no nuclear installations, the proximity of nearby nuclear power plants has highlighted the importance of strengthening Qatari emergency response capabilities and management infrastructures. (Photo: Qatari Ministry of Municipality and Environment)

“From the point of view of customs, the assessment of hazards and personal protection guidelines are particularly relevant to our work, where we may detect radioactivity,” said Khalid Al-Tamimi of the General Customs Authority of Qatar. “This training has allowed us to improve our capacity to respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies.”

Qatar has no nuclear installations within its own territory. However, several land-based nuclear power reactors are in operation in the region, and one is in construction as close as 50 kilometres from its borders, necessitating a strengthened nuclear and radiological emergency response capability and management infrastructure.

“We consider this training course to be useful in improving identified arrangements in this area at the national level,” said Bader Al-Saadi, a nuclear engineer at the Qatari Ministry of Municipality and Environment, which is the official regulator for nuclear and radiation activities. “It is also important to us to gain an understanding of what type of assistance can be requested from the IAEA in a radiological emergency, and how to request it.”

In 2010, an IAEA Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) follow-up mission assessing national capabilities in the country provided a set of recommendations to Qatar. These outlined the need for an integrated, well-equipped and multi-layered nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response programme to cope with new nuclear hazards and their associated radiological risks.

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