Buzz Blog: The Strength of a Nation

HMN- Hello Fellow Hazmatters and welcome to the next edition of the Buzz Blog. June has been a busy month in the world of hazmat for all of us. The IAFC Hazmat was held in Baltimore from June 15th-18th. I consider myself lucky to attend every year. It could not be more convenient to have the conference in my back yard every year. The strength of the Hazmat Nation is demonstrated every time this conference takes place. Attendance numbers reached over 1300 this time around. The major topic of conversation in any hazmat circles here lately has been the synthetic opioids issue.

The Nation has been all over this issue for the last couple of months. New information is is being shared on an almost daily basis. There is one important word in my last sentence that is making all the difference in the nation. That word is shared. Yup, I said information that is being shared. Information that is shared becomes knowledge for the responder to be better prepared. I have always believed that knowledge is power. In this case, the power to handle incidents safely and efficiently comes to mind. You may choose to share this knowledge or keep it to yourself. We are in an era of sharing that has never been seen before. There are two reasons why I believe this is happening.

The first is the power of the internet and social media. The second is due to the members of the current generation sharing the information. I am not trying to minimize the accomplishments of our senior members in the hazmat community by saying this. The senior members are the pillars of our community. They have brought us to where we are now as a nation. The senior members have responded in the wild west of hazmat. They have seen the introduction of Hazwoper. Many have helped write response standards. It is time for the next generation of hazmatters to step up and make an impact on the nation. The advantage the current generation has is immediate. The power of instant information is here with the internet. The ability to rapidly access information is in the palm of your hand. Social media is changing the hazmat response world in ways we could have never imagined.

Technology plays a key factor as well. Live video is available almost as quickly as an incident occurs. Smarthphones, Go Pro Cameras and even street cameras. I can remember being on vacation in Texas in Oct. 2012. A propane tank truck incident was unfolding on the Bay Bridge back in Maryland. Social media posts were all over Facebook and twitter. I quickly tuned in to the MD State Traffic Cams for the Bay Bridge. MDE was reseating an SRV in order to move the truck to a safe place to transfer product. Training classes are now able to be streamed to classrooms everywhere. Recent posts on the Hazmat Group II on FB discussed the various ways these streaming technician classes could be accomplished. It’s only going to get better as well. Improved technologies are just on the horizon. There are two key platforms that take advantage of this ability in the hazmat response world. The website and the Hazmat Guys podcast. Each platform reaches out to the hazmat response community in a complementary fashion. The Hazmat Nation website posts breaking news, training articles, response team profiles, apparatus displays and even some clown writing a blog (HA HA).

There are always several new posts almost daily on any of these topics. Following their social media pages is the best way to keep up with the breaking news that could happen at any time. You as a hazmat responder can submit content to be shared on the website. The Hazmat Guys Podcast approaches the community from a different angle. Bob and Mike (both of FDNY Hazmat 1 Specialist) produce downloadable shows on specific topics of hazmat response. Each episode can last from 30 minutes to an hour. They are well prepared for each show they produce. The best thing about their show is their interaction with each other. You can sense how well prepared they are by the depth of the knowledge they present.

The two platforms come together every Thursday night at 2115 in the form of the Hazmat Nation Roundtable, a live video feed to discuss the events of the week. Tune in or log on to any of these and you will not be disappointed. The real key part of all this as with any FD is the people. Personnel are the most valuable resource for any FD. The current generation of “hazmatters” are some of the most humble and down to earth guys I have met. There was one common theme that echoed throughout the IAFC Hazmat recently. In some way shape or form, each hazmatter did not claim to be an expert. They simply stated that they wanted to share their knowledge to make the Nation stronger. Make no mistake, the Nation is very strong right now. Should you ever find yourself needing an answer to a problem, a fellow hazmatter is just a call or message away. The strength of this nation lies in our willingness to help each other. The growth of the nation can be seen in the two photos, one year apart from Peter’s Pour House in Baltimore.


(The photo on the left is from 2016 and the one on the right is from this year)

Establishing the relationships ahead of time makes all the difference. It is still important to attend conferences and training in person. Making personal contact enhances the relationship you have already established online. We have not even begun to reach our ceiling as a Nation. The sky is the limit as long as the hazmatters see the greater good. What must we do to keep the nation growing? The answer is actually very simple. Start by sharing and growing in your home department. We must take care of our own backyard in order to best serve the nation. The nation will never be stronger when all of the smaller communities are connected. You can see this connection when events like the IAFC Hazmat come around. Professional relationships evolve in to personal friendships. Friendships only serve to strengthen the bonds of the nation. Thanks to everyone for taking time to read this edition of the Buzz Blog. Stay tuned for the next edition when i take a look at one local hazmatter’s legacy that we can all learn from.

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About the Author

Kevin Ryan

Kevin Ryan is a member of the Baltimore City FD Hazmat Operations. He has been involved in hazmat response for over 15 years and a fire service member for 25 years. He is currently the training coordinator for the BCFD Hazmat Team. He can be reached at [email protected]