‘Mystery’ behind zone transition points solved

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ackerman
  • 8th Civil Engineer Squadron
Zone transition points are not a new concept, but are rarely seen by most Air Force personnel, except for some deployed locations and bases in Korea.

The idea and concept is simple; to limit and control movement from one zone, or designated area, to another by means of a ZTP to aide in split Mission-Oriented Protective Posture operations.

On paper and in our Kunsan Ability to Survive and Operate guide, the process seems simple. The confusion sets in when personnel are actually on the move, and the "lemming" instinct takes over, where one sees the other conduct a process they're unsure of, and copies the action. In most cases, this behavior is not the right answer.

Another part of the confusion factor is what to do next after arriving at a ZTP. Several questions arise such as, "What if I move through a MOPP 2 environment to a MOPP 4 environment and then back again to a MOPP 2 environment in my vehicle?" and "What If I am contaminated and I need to decontaminate?" Many of these questions are easily solved by one simple solution ... call your unit control center for guidance.

Moving around in a contaminated zone and processing through a ZTP is risky business, and the reason behind ZTPs is to control movement. The UCC must have visibility on personnel movement, accountability, control of entry and exit to and from contaminated areas, and knowledge of contamination, damage, injuries, and unexploded ordinance. The UCC gains a common operating picture of the mission and all aspects of their unit's function, and assists the emergency operations center to maintain a similar and larger COP. Contaminated equipment, buildings, vehicles and personnel are monitored, tracked and reported to the EOC from the UCC. Therefore, the UCC serves a very vital function to assist in the COP, and help sustain the ability to use split MOPP by controlling movement through ZTPs.

So, the next question usually is, "How do I process through a ZTP?" The answer is simple, and can be found below and in the Kunsan ATSO guide. To explain the answer, let me first address the reason why ZTPs are on paved surfaces.

Chemical agents absorb into porous surfaces very rapidly; 90 seconds is the maximum for concrete, and as little as three seconds for others. This is one of the reasons why we also direct people to remain indoors for a long duration, to ensure all contaminants have fallen from a release, and to ensure there is a safe walking path on paved surfaces.

Imagine your driveway at home or a parking lot here on base. When a car leaks oil, it leaves a stain that appears wet and usually remains wet, slick and oily for a short period of time. Once it absorbs into the driveway, it appears dry, but the stain remains, even after it rains. When you walk across it or touch it, the oil and stain doesn't transfer with you into the house or anywhere else on the driveway. Contamination is very similar. Once contamination absorbs into surfaces such as pavement, it becomes a part of it like an oil stain, but doesn't transfer. Grass on the other hand, like morning dew or after a rain storm, takes longer for liquid to absorb or evaporate. This is why if you stay on paved surfaces, and stay off the grass, your likelihood of transferring hazards or being contaminated are slim to none.

So, when you approach a ZTP, check your M9 paper and look for signs of contamination. If you were indoors during a chemical agent attack and stayed off the grass and made no other contact with a contaminated surface, then proceeding through a ZTP is as simple as walking right on through, depending on the directed MOPP level for that zone. If in a vehicle and the same process applies, call your UCC and perform the directed action of your UCC at the end of your travels. You don't have to get out of your vehicle at each transition point.

If you are contaminated, use your M295 personal equipment decontamination kit and dispose of it at the nearest facility's contaminated waste location. Notify your UCC, and allow them to contact the EOC before directing you to the nearest collective protection system shelter.

The information provided may be a thought process that seems confusing, but the simple answer for any question when transitioning to any area or zone is the most important of all ... call your UCC for guidance.