“Back To It” in this weeks Buzz Blog!

Welcome back to the Buzz Blog fellow hazmatters, My apologies for the delay in getting this next blog out to everyone. I hope to get a new blog out to everyone every 2-3 weeks. I want to start out by offering condolences to the Burchett family, friends, Cecil Co. MD Dept. of Emergency Services and Singerly FD of Elkton MD on the loss of Capt. Rob Burchett. Rob was laid to rest this past weekend after his battle with cancer. He was a family man and served the community with a commitment not often seen. Rob was a friend as well as a fellow hazmatter from my time on Cecil Co. MD Hazmat. His son Tyler is currently in the Baltimore City FD Academy taking his recruit training. Tyler will be a great addition to the BCFD. His service to the citizens of Baltimore and his home community will directly reflect the excellence that Rob achieved in his career. The hazmat community has taken 2 huge lumps here in the last couple months. First we lost Krissy Kreutzer and now Rob. These losses leave some huge holes to fill. It’s time for the next generation of hazmatters to step up and take the lead.

The IAFC Hazmat conference comes to Baltimore every summer. One of the highlights is the vendor portion of the conference. The vendors use the conference as an opportunity to show off new equipment that is available. Hazmatters have the chance to see the latest and greatest that is offered for their use. The vendor hall is an excellent opportunity to establish or maintain professional connections with these companies. What could be better than that?? All the latest and greatest technology in detection equipment in one place?? So, what if I told you that the one piece of detection equipment you must have can’t be found in the vendor hall ?? I must be crazy right??

I can tell you where it can be found. The one piece of detection equipment you must have is sitting in every classroom during the education sessions. Yup, every hazmatter educating their brains is the one essential piece of detection needed to solve all your hazmat responses. You cannot effectively handle hazmat responses without using your brain. There is no other meter on the market that can accomplish what your brain can. The meter you buy off the shelf is dumb. That meter can only work as it was designed. It does not have the ability to think outside of the box. It cannot recognize clues that present itself during your investigation. We can think of ourselves as detectives responding to a hazmat call. You must take into account all the clues that present itself at an incident.

Let’s look at a basic response that probably all FD’s take. Take the typical CO call to a residence. Most jurisdictions i am familiar with send one company with a meter to the response. The resident calls 911 because their CO detector started beeping. Members on the responding company question the occupant, utilize their 4 or 5 gas and check for sources of CO. A meter cannot do this all by itself. The OIC working with his crew must size up the situation entirely. All of the information can be considered clues to solve this CO response. Meter readings are just one part of this size up. We all know that meters can be fooled by cross sensitivities or something that interferes with correct readings. Our brains can account for these limitations in our investigation process. More complicated hazmat responses require thorough size up, good metering strategies and highly trained personnel. A good size up entails accounting for all possible clues. Clues are specific to the environment we encounter. I always think of biological indicators to be most conclusive for our investigations.

Signs and symptoms of victims when compared with the rest of our findings go a long way to solving the response. The development of good metering strategies is also essential. Knowing what meters are available to you, understanding the limitations of the equipment and competent users are necessary. The highly trained personnel are the absolute here. None of this can be accomplished without the members that are willing to take extra training and more responsibility. You can say that we “calibrate” our brains with training and experience. We hear it every day in the fire service about the need to train. I can argue that training is even more essential for the hazmat responder. The variety of situations that could be encountered by a hazmat responder are probably more than what the average fireman thinks about. The consequences of hazmat response can be greater than the typical FD response.

The risk of hazardous materials responses can affect larger areas, impact more citizens and infrastructure. These increased consequences scream out for more training and preparation for hazmat responders. The training is everywhere. You can get a good book, find articles on line, attend conferences and have regular company training. The ability to train is endless. Training can be accomplished based on how you learn.

Do you prefer to read books? Do you like video based? Search articles online? Some of the best training is accomplished at the firehouse kitchen table. Sharing stories and lessons of the past is probably the most invaluable way to learn. Senior members need to see this and pass their experiences to the next generation. Younger members should recognize the lessons learned of previous generations so you don’t make the same mistakes twice. Experience is even more valuable in today’s hazmat world. Hazardous Materials are highly regulated in all facets. Consequentially, we have less incidents to respond to. Find any senior member of the hazmat community at a conference and ask about the early days of hazmat response before DOT, PHMSA and OSHA. They will probably equate those days to the Wild West of Hazmat response.

We just don’t have the frequency and variety of responses anymore to gain valuable lessons. The lack of these responses puts a lot of pressure on how we train. Ironically, I think the lack of incidents hurts our recruitment efforts. Most fireman don’t join their department to be a hazmat tech. They see the necessary training for hazmat responses then realize that we just don’t have a whole lot of responses. The responses we do get are mostly petroleum based which typically don’t offer a lot of excitement. We just don’t have the big hazmat call like we used to.

I want to end this edition by sending my thanks out to Jamie Bethard and everyone who makes the annual Delaware Hazmat Weekend possible. Jamie is the lead environmental responder for Delaware Natural Resource and Environmental Control (DNREC). He is one of the most competent and down to earth hazmat responders I have ever met. I am glad to call him a fellow responder and friend. This year was the 10th anniversary of the Weekend. The committee assembled some of the best instruction available, put together a nice swag bag and good food for this years conference. The training was on par with other conferences I have attended. A good mix of local, regional and national instructors gave something for everyone to appreciate.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the conference is FREE to attend for the weekend. I suspect they had over 300 attendees again this year. The conference is always held in early April in Dover, DE at the Delaware State Fire School. I highly recommend you attend this conference in the future if you have the opportunity. Thanks to everyone for your continued support of the Buzz Blog.

See you here next time on hazmatnation.com.

Kevin Ryan Buzz Blog
Kevin Ryan

HazSim Pro training system has been used to train across the U.S since 2011. Trainers in HazMat and Confined Space realized that ‘tapping the student on the shoulder’ was NOT effective training. This system uses NO hazardous materials and although may not look exactly like your front line meter, shows the important data which the all students needs to learn to ‘react’ to. Click HERE for video of setting up the system. Click this link for customers in action using the HazSim to better train responders. Click HERE for a quote.