Authors Discuss how Hazmat Textbook Updates Tackle Modern Threats

Greg Noll and Mikel Hildebrand teamed up again to update “Hazardous Materials: Managing the Incident 5th Edition” that was released earlier this year. While they may be humble about their contributions to the hazmat world, most of us recognize them for the rock stars they are.

For those unfamiliar with Hildebrand and Noll, here’s their quick biographies that appear in the 5th Edition.

Greg Noll and Mike Hildebrand have 50 years of experience in hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction emergency planning, preparedness, and response for public safety and industry. They are both veterans of the U.S. Air Force Fire Protection community, Certified Safety Professionals, and have served on the Technical Committee for Hazardous Materials Response Personnel (NFPA 470 and 472) for more than 30 years. They are recipients of the prestigious International Association of Fire Chiefs’ (IAFC) Chief John M. Eversole Lifetime Achievement Award for their leadership and contributions to further enhance the hazardous materials emergency response profession. Both individuals have also been inducted into the National Fire Heritage Center’s Hall of Legends, Legacies, and Leaders for their contributions to the emergency response community.

Hazmat Nation sat down with the authors to ask them what readers can expect from the updated textbook. Here’s our interview.

What are you most proud of with the 5th Edition?

The longevity of the project — HMMTI has been in continuous print for 34-plus years. To the best of our knowledge the only other current fire service textbook that has been in continuous print that long is Frank Brannigan’s and Glenn Corbett’s classic textbook, “Brannigan’s Building Construction for the Fire Service”, now in its fourth edition. In our travels, it’s common to see dog-eared copies of HMMTI in fire and HMRT stations.

What do you wish you could have accomplished with it but couldn’t?

We have never been very good self-promoters or marketers of the book. We rely on the publisher to market, and they primarily market to the fire service. From our perspective as emergency responders, the book has a larger potential market to the public safety community, including industry, law enforcement and military.

While we are pretty good at marketing concepts and ideas in a training or education setting, product marketing and promotion is a skill set we don’t have and have never been good at it. It requires a lot of time. Looking back to the first edition, Jim Yvorra was exceptional as a promoter of both products and concepts, and was really good at building networks. Tragically, Jimmy was a LODD in January 1988. Had Jimmy lived to see the subsequent four editions, we probably would have reached a much larger audience inside and outside the U.S.

Here is more information on Jimmy and the Yvorra Leadership Development Foundation.

What are the top changes instructors will see with this update?

The 5th Edition includes two new chapters. HazMat Chemistry is written from a street-smart perspective and is essentially a Cliff Notes version of Toby Bevelaqua’s “Hazardous Materials Chemistry” textbook. We also have a new chapter on Hazardous Materials Monitoring and Detection. Like the chemistry chapter, it is a condensed reference of Chris Hawley’s excellent textbook on “Air Monitoring and Detection Devices.”

We also focused on having continuity between HMMTI and Rob Schnepp’s “Hazardous Materials Awareness and Operations” textbook. Given that all of us share the same publisher (Jones and Bartlett Learning), it provides us with the ability to reference and use each of our respective works.

How does this edition make teaching hazmat more effective?

It’s not just a book, it’s a learning system. When you purchase HMMTI in a hard copy or Kindle version, you get access to JBL’s “Navigate” system, which includes an instructor’s toolkit and test questions, among other things. The book also lines up with the NFPA 470 objectives for hazmat technician, hazmat officer and hazmat incident commander — so in one book, a student or instructor can progress through the standards requirements.

What one thing do you hope every student who uses this book fully internalizes?

A sense of what can go wrong no matter how much you plan and train. The 5th Edition references more than 50 incident case studies or incident summaries. Each one describes what happened, where and when it happened and what were the consequences. Over the past five decades many emergency responders have been killed in the line of duty or suffered long-term injuries and illnesses. History teaches valuable lessons. As philosopher George Santayana noted, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

What’s the biggest emerging hazmat threat you had to tackle in this edition?

It’s not one issue, but an evolution of a number of issues. For example, consider the response challenges posed by new and alternative energy sources and technology such as LNG, batteries and hydrogen. There also has been an evolution with both the criminal use of hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction, which bring together personnel from a range of response organizations including fire, public safety and military. Finally, there is an increasing recognition that hazmat responders can provide skills and expertise to manage safety risks beyond hazmat incidents, such as technical incidents and low-probability, high-consequence scenarios.

Looking into your crystal ball, what are the biggest challenges the authors of the sixth edition will face?

Technology and industry consensus standards will continue to evolve. For example, consider how technology has changed our ability to recognize, identify and monitor substances over the last decade. There will remain a constant need to apply risk-based response processes and procedures to technical response scenarios. While the threats and hazards may change, there will remain a need to apply basic incident analysis skills to ensure responder safety and positive incident outcomes.

Did you have to address changes in hazmat leadership best practices for both commanding an incident and leading a team?

This wasn’t as difficult as we imagined when we started working on the 5th Edition. As we see in NFPA 470, there is significant overlap between the skills and competencies for its HazMat Incident Commander and HazMat Officer, with the incident commander focusing more on strategic issues and the officer focusing more on tactical considerations.

What did we not talk about that we should have?

One of our strengths has been the ability to take complex response issues and break them down to where they can be applied and understood by “Mickey the Mope.” When we published the first edition of HMMTI in 1988, there were no NFPA hazmat standards, OSHA 1910.120 was an interim rule and you could count on one hand the number of hazmat emergency response training manuals that were available.

We’ve tried to develop a textbook that is written by hazmat responders for hazmat responders. Many peers have thanked us over the years for bringing HMMTI and the Eight Step Process to the classroom and for how easy it is to use them to study for promotional exams.

Finally, people think you are a lot smarter than you really are when you write a book. We’re proud of our work, but frankly it would not have been possible without the sharing and input of many of our friends and peers. Likewise, a good textbook needs editors, design and layout specialists, artists, and most important — third party technical reviewers. We are simply the “recording secretaries” for the body of hazmat knowledge rather than subject matter experts.

Take your meter training to the next level

If your team is still using live agents, real front-of-the-line meters as props, yellow stickie notes, paper feeds or the age-old “tap on the shoulder” method, then it’s time to stop – we want to help you improve and upgrade your training program! 

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