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10 January 2013, 11:24
Volunteers from Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire have been trained to help in the aftermath of nuclear, biological or chemical leaks.
A team from the British Red Cross have learned how to set up decontamination and field hospital equipment as well as provide practical and emotional help to victims.
The volunteers could now be deployed to emergencies involving hazardous materials which affect anything from a handful of people or hundreds.
The training has been provided as part of a new partnership between the charity and East of England Ambulance Service's (EEAS) special operations response team (Sort).
Volunteers from Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk were trained to support Sort in October and November, and became available for call outs last month.
Melissa Magna, a Red Cross emergency response manager, said: "We're really pleased to form this partnership with the EEAS. We work very closely with all emergency services, so our volunteers are very experienced at dealing with emergency situations and helping people cope in a time of a crisis.''
Those who received the training were all Red Cross volunteers in the charity's other services but can now be called upon if Sort is needed.
EEAS plans to give the training to 52 Red Cross volunteers, as well as 18 from St John Ambulance, by the end of 2013.