News: HazMat: Dirty job someone's got to do it
Story by Lance Cpl. Cayce Nevers
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan - On April 28, 1953, Hooker Chemical, a company involved with toxic waste sites in Love Canal, N.Y., sold polluted land to the Niagara Falls School Board knowing there was 21,000 tons of chemical waste buried in
In 1962 residents of Love Canal reported puddles of oil or colored liquids in their backyards or basements. Later that year, the Love Canal Homeowners Association reported that 56 percent of babies were born with at least one birth defect.
Hazardous materials are substances or materials that can adversely affect the safety of the public. HazMat teams are personnel trained to handle these dangerous substances.
Marines and station firefighters attended a Hazardous Materials Technicians Course, at the Iwakuni Fire Department here to
learn how to handle HazMat in dangerous situations March 7 - April 7.
Course attendees went through five weeks of hands-on training and classroom instruction.
Throughout the course, the trainees performed practical application in the mornings and classroom instructions in the afternoons.
Practical application consisted of applying HazMat techniques involving different chemicals in 12 learning stations.
The classroom instructions were comprised of students working as a team to complete paperwork for each HazMat station.
The training is designed to teach Marines and firefighters to respond safely to HazMat using advanced techniques, said Thomas Hirko, Bucks County Community College public safety trainer.
“The trainees go through techniques in mitigating leaks of materials that would cause environmental and personal harm,” said Mike McGinnis, Bucks County Community College public safety trainer.
Marines and firefighters are trained on how to deal with chemical warfare agents and radiological and chemical hazards.
Trainees gained the knowledge and ability to respond to HazMat incidents like Love Canal.
The knowledge, information and practical training taught in the HazMat course are required to complete the prerequisites of a Japanese firefighter, said Yasushi Morikawa, Iwakuni Fire Department assistant fire chief.
With this course being mixed with Marines and Japanese speaking firefighters, students needed a translator.
“The translator we have takes our concept and changes that to words that the students would understand,” said McGinnis. “We have to explain the technical aspect of the course to the translator, and the translator turns that into Japanese so the Japanese speaking students can understand.”
Although a language barrier was present, the instructors were able to complete the curriculum by the set testing date.
To become HazMat technicians, the students went through 80 hours of the HazMat course and must meet yearly training hours to maintain their technician status.
“If we don’t do 16 hours yearly, we have to retake the class,” said Morikawa.
In order to complete the course, students are tested in seven of the 12 stations. Trainees are randomly given stations they will be tested on.
They must pass and complete paperwork and practical application for each station tested.
The course goes about once, sometimes twice a year here. This year the Marines and firefighters have put in a lot of hours to pass the course and will have to continue to put in hours of training annually to refresh their HazMat knowledge and techniques to further ensure the safety of station residents.