Hazmat: Initial Approach and Actions

This class is designed for fire officers that may respond to a hazardous materials incident. “In my fire officer training, there was a significant amount of material on fire incident size up, but none on hazmat incident size up,” said instructor Kristina Kreutzer, Ph.D., Research Chemist, DuPont; member, Mill Creek (DE) Fire Company. “The class was written to address this gap. This is a simple size up system, and it is related to regular fire department operations.”
The class covered the basics of incident size up. “If an officer can size up any type of incident, and lay the proper groundwork for the remainder of the incident, things will go relatively smoothly,” asserted Kreutzer. “It’s the hazmat equivalent of getting a ladder in front of a structure fire, and making sure the hydrant lines were stretched.”
For a hazmat incident, the key points are evaluating the environment, the container, and the material, which are organized in an assessment tree that can capture as much or as little detail as needed. “Considering the environment, and having the ability to establish scene control, is much the same as in other types of incidents,” she said. “If a responder understands the container, and the stresses acting on the container, he can make predictions of possible outcomes, and consider appropriate intervention strategies. Understanding the material is much like understanding fire behavior, but unlike fire, each material has its own characteristics.”
By the end of the class, Kreutzer said firefighters would benefit from the class because they received some easy to use tools to make a good initial assessment, and initiate a fundamentally sound incident action plan.
“Firefighters should gain a fundamental understanding of how materials behave, and how it impacts their tactics,” said Kreutzer. “The important thing at the end of the day is that the firefighters can systematically look at the environment, the container, and the material, and get the incident response to a good start.”

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