Going Inside a Mobile Decontamination Unit

For months, many Americans have been bracing themselves for what they keep hearing is inevitable — another terror attack.

Public safety officials are also getting prepared. The government has joined up with the private sector to developed a mobile decontamination unit, which could prove critical in disasters ranging from a chemical spill to a dirty bomb. Already, orders are coming in from law enforcement, fire service, municipal governments and military agencies.

Good Morning America took a tour of a 32-foot trailer unit which featured two "decon" lanes, developed by Kohler Mobile Plumbing Systems. The technology isn't new, but making the decontamination units portable is.

"It can pull up to a disaster site and get going with no set-up time," said Jeremy Knopow, who developed the Kohler system. "It's basically dirty in, clean out."

Six Showering Lanes

Kohler — perhaps best known for making sinks, showers and toilets for the home — developed the new mobile units in conjunction with the Army's Biological Task Force.

Though the unit shown on Good Morning America had just two lanes, each unit can house up to six private decon showering lanes for rescue, industrial, military and civilian applications.

Decontamination is a fairly new market. In the past, the contaminated person stands in a child's wading pool, and is sprayed off with a garden hose. The cleansing agent, used both then and now, is a mixture of mouthwash, peroxide and water — "not a high-tech potion," says Knopow.

If an attack occurs, it is likely people who need to be contaminated would be injured, and would arrive at the mobile unit on stretchers, so there are lanes for people on stretchers, and those on foot. The stretchers can be moved through the mobile unit on a conveyer belt.

Right outside the mobile trailer at ground level, the mass decontamination process starts with the application of a decon cleaning agent to the individual. After entering, the contaminated individuals would go through a series of steps:

1. They would wash their hands at a touchless faucet. The area also includes stainless steel, single-basin rinsing sinks and eyewash stations.

2. Showers are used to spray foamy cleaning agents which consist of mouthwash, peroxide and water on the individuals' clothes. 3. The individual would remove their contaminated clothes, which are placed in a self-sealing chute that leads to a sealed undercarriage compartment. 4. The next stop is a second room, where spray foam cleaning agent is sprayed on the now unclothed individual.

5. Then, a series of showers using multidirectional showerheads would rinse the person off. The private showering area includes hot water body sprays, a hand shower and a decon cleaning agent. Fresh water is stored in a sub-floor 2,200-gallon holding tank. Users can also hook up to fire hydrants or fire trucks for water.

6. In the third room, the decontaminated person would dry off with a towel, dispose of the towel, and dress in a disposable white suit.

In addition to decontaminating people inside the trailer, the unit can also decontaminate vehicles with a foamy mixture.

An on-board generator provides all the electricity required to operate the unit. The generators can run on diesel, natural gas or propane.