Firefighters get Hazmat training

Ross Johnson photo Firefighters participating in hazardous materials training.

Ross Johnson photo
Firefighters participating in hazardous materials training.

White Pine County firefighters participated in a hazardous materials training exercise March 20, funded through an emergency preparedness grant. After three days of classroom training, fire training consultant James Powell and county Fire Chief Brett Waters designed a simulation for the firefighters to navigate.

A volunteer sat on the ground next to a water truck, pretending to be incapacitated underneath an invisible plume of corrosive vapor. Seven year veteran Jenn Hollingsworth served as incident commander, ordering her firefighters into protective gear and self-contained breathing     systems.

Two firefighters carried the victim more than fifty yards from the accident scene to a stretcher before Powell assessed them. Powell has over 45 years of fire service experience, including 30 years with the Carson City Fire Department, where he retired as Chief of Operations.

“I felt it went really well,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s a great opportunity brought to us by our local emergency planning committee.”

“We had a great instructor,” Waters said about Powell. “He was able to bring his knowledge from Carson City and we’re getting a lot of people to exercise their skills and refine them.”

Funding for the exercise came from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation, two auditors from which observed the training, and through the State Emergency Response Commission.

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  1. I know that funds are limited to ALL services in White Pine County, and entities are not financially able to purchase the latest and greatest of decontamination equipment for what would be a relatively low number of emergency responses (HazMat), but from the description and picture shown with this article, this type of “approach” to mitigating a Hazardous Materials emergency was antiquated in the 1980’s. The picture shows two firefighters walking between two pumpers, which are spraying water on their turnout gear as a form of “decontamination” after they were exposed to vapors. Item 1) Firefighters are dressed in STRUCTURAL FIREFIGHTING TURNOUT GEAR. It is NOT rated for Hazardous Materials, Technical Rescue, etc. It will fail in circumstances other than STRUCTURAL FIREFIGHTING. 2) The water that is “decontaminating” their turnout gear is not diked nor contained, allowing it to follow the rule of gravity and run downhill. This will allow whatever chemical that was on their turnouts to contaminate whatever it reaches when it runs off.
    For many years, firefighters have been led to believe that their structural firefighting ensemble were like Superman suits. This is not the case. Outside of structural firefighting, we have learned the hard way that the materials in turnout gear can “wick” chemicals through the three protective barriers to make direct contact with the skin, where that chemical is absorbed. In cases of certain Hazardous Materials, this can (and has) had a lethal result.
    Simply stated, whatever was taught by fire training consultant James Powell has been changed, and in some cases, BANNED by current NFPA standards, is antiquated, unsafe, and will result in the death of Fire personnel should they attempt to use these strategies in a real HazMat response. Whatever the cost, we cannot afford that!

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