News: Army, National Guard firefighters 'suit up' for HAZMAT training
Story by Sgt. Katryn McCalment
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – A delivery driver, unfamiliar with Fort Bragg, has backed into another delivery truck just inside the Knox Street Access Control Point and containers with hazardous markings are leaking onto the road. The mixture of chemicals is creating a dense cloud and two soldiers are injured nearby.
Within minutes, fire trucks arrive on scene and cordon off the area. Seeing the cloud and immediately assessing the situation, bright yellow and blue suits are unpacked and hurriedly donned by fire personnel.
For 22 firefighters from Army posts along the Eastern seaboard, this is their Hazardous Materials Technician Course culmination exercise at Fire Station 1 Oct. 18.
The two-week course brought together active-duty firefighters from Fort Drum, N.Y., Fort Stewart, Ga., National Guardsmen from Massachusetts, in addition to civilian and active-duty firefighters from Fort Bragg.
“This training greatly impacts the installation as well as the region,” said Sgt. 1st Class Adam Law, fire chief for 95th Engineer Headquarters Detachment on Fort Bragg and organizer of the event. “Once they are trained and certified they could be utilized to conduct technician level mitigation techniques at any hazardous materials incident.”
The HAZMAT certification is an additional skill for the firefighters, allowing them to respond to a wider variety of emergency calls.
“Because we work on shift side by side with the DOD civilians, this training allows us to get more hands on experience with them,” said Pfc. Brad Lemke, a firefighter with 520th Engineer Detachment on Fort Drum. “And being so close to the border with Canada, it prepares us for anything that might happen.”
As some firefighters put on chemical protective suits, others begin setting up a decontamination area for anyone exiting the contaminated site. Once it is complete, an initial team of three firefighters enter the “hot zone” to assess the situation and pull out the victims.
The instructors from Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas watch as the team checks chemical detection devices and give them hypothetical readings.
After the victims have been transferred to the decontamination area, the instructors grade the HAZMAT team’s ability to assess, stabilize and control the site.
To increase the difficulty level, some of the leaking containers don’t have labels, and the team must search the truck cabin for shipping documentation.
“Found it,” radios one of the firefighters back to the command team. From inside his suit, the firefighter reads off the list of chemicals and the three-man team proceeds toward the decontamination site to have their suits sanitized before taking them off.
The student command team looks up proper procedures for chlorine and two types of pesticides and a second HAZMAT team is sent in with a plan of action.
Within an hour, all leaking barrels have been sealed or contained within larger storage containers and the exercise is complete.
“Being able to get everyone here from multiple installations to do a joint training exercise so they can learn from each other, how each detachment performs at their location… it’s invaluable,” said Law.
Date Posted:10.24.2012 15:24
Location:FORT BRAGG, NC, US
Hometown:CAMP EDWARDS, MA, US
Hometown:FORT DRUM, NY, US
Hometown:FORT STEWART, GA, US
Hometown:MILFORD, MA, US