Dover AFB Warm Zone team, final line of defense for healthcare workers Oct. 19, 2023

Living and working on any military installation brings with it the real-life threat of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear hazards. These hazards can come in many forms, from accidental spills to deliberate attacks. Regardless of the scenario, the Airmen of the Dover Air Force Base Warm Zone team stand ready to ensure healthcare workers can treat the wounded without becoming casualties themselves.

“It is vital healthcare workers are kept safe from being contaminated while they do their job,” said Tech. Sgt. Terrence Jasso, 436th Healthcare Operations Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of diagnostic imaging. “If even one healthcare worker gets contaminated and becomes a patient themselves, it can greatly lower the efficiency of the clinic.”

The Warm Zone team is made up of 30 Airmen from throughout the 436th Medical Group. In the event of an incident or an accident involving CBRN agents, the Warm Zone team has 20 minutes to don their protective equipment and set up for decontamination operations. For the medical clinic, they serve as a final line of defense against contamination.

“We set up in front of the clinic in the aftermath of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack or spill,” explained Jasso. “Our role is to keep the hospital workers from being contaminated.”


Within the Warm Zone team, members are assigned to smaller groups, each with their own specific mission. The manpower and security team sets a perimeter around the decontamination area, checking patients for weapons or anything else that would pose danger to the Warm Zone team. A triage team then analyzes the severity of a patient’s injuries and determines the order in which they are seen. Finally, the patients move on to the in-place patient decontamination team who carefully remove as many contaminants as possible before they can receive medical attention inside the clinic.

Patients who can walk unassisted are taken through an ambulatory decontamination lane where they are directed and assisted in the decontamination process. Patients who are unconscious or unable to walk are brought through on a litter and the decontamination team does most or all of the work.

“About 75 to 90 percent of the contaminants can be eliminated by carefully and properly removing the patients' clothing, but we also scrub them with warm soapy water,” said Jasso. “We can get up to 10 litter patients through in an hour plus 25 ambulatory patients as well.”

In May of 2023, the Warm Zone team received specialized training from Decon LLC, a company specializing in the education and consulting of CBRN decontamination. The two-day training course included classroom instruction and practical application. The team now holds their own monthly training days to practice donning protective equipment and setting up the decontamination tent. The monthly training days also introduces new members to their duties.

“Our entire medical staff is extremely proud of our Warm Zone team, said Col. Peggy Dickson, 436th Medical Group commander.”We are thankful for all the hard work they put into maintaining a high level of readiness and proficiency.”