Drills, Firefighter Training, Leadership

Drill of the Week: Haz-Mat Operations

Haz-mat operations are very slow, methodical operations. Not all of us are haz-mat technicians, but many of us are trained to the operations level, and most, if not all of us, have awareness training. What this means is that all of us may find ourselves at the scene of a haz-mat incident at any time and that we should be aware of what is happening, and why. In fact, many times, the officer in command determines if a haz-mat team should be dispatched to the scene to mitigate a haz-mat threat. Also important is assisting EMS with triage and patient removal.

The objectives of this drill are as follows:

  • To practice SOPs for haz-mat incidents
  • To practice multiple-casualty rescue operations
  • To practice SOPs for multiple-casualty operations
  • To practice triage operations, and
  • To practice ICS operations.

You’ll need access to a loading dock or a simulated loading dock, victims, triage tags and protocols, injury makeup and labels or a moulage kit, press releases, release forms for the victims; a few empty drums with haz-mat markings; baking soda and vinegar, overpacking equipment for the drums, and decontamination equipment.

You will also need 12 to 15 people to serve as victims. They will be made up to reflect simulated injuries and will be instructed on what to say to rescuers. In his book, Volunteer Training Drills–A Year of Weekly Drills, Howard A. Chatterton suggests that each victim be made aware that rescuers will do a full-body survey, but the victims will be instructed not to remove any clothing.

Injuries can be simulated with standard makeup. Victims with simulated broken bones should be instructed to scream appropriately if those body parts are moved. At least one victim, with a simulated pale face, should be sitting a short distance from the major group of victims. This victim should be instructed to act in a disoriented manner. Try to coordinate the drill with a local medical facility so that its personnel can practice its disaster plan at the same time.

Have victims report for instructions 90 minutes before the drill. Be sure all sign a release form. If children are involved, make sure their parents or guardians sign the form. Responding apparatus should be staged nearby and dispatched by a training officer. Resources should be staged to provide an appropriate number of personnel and supplies.

Observe the following:

  • The steps taken to establish hot, warm, and cold zones and the steps taken by arriving personnel. If the steps are inappropriate, assign those personnel as additional victims.
  • The location of apparatus in terms of distance, terrain, and wind.
  • When the first priority-one patient was identified and when the last priority-one patient was identified.
  • The proper use of triage procedures.
  • The proper assignment of treatment priorities.
  • When priority-one patients were transported.
  • When the disoriented victim in shock was located and treated.
  • The assignment of sector officers and a safety officer.
  • The time it took to treat and transport all victims.
  • The proper tracking of transportation.
  • The proper containment of the hazardous materials.
  • The proper decontamination procedures.

The debriefing should cover the evaluation criteria listed above. Give victims and parents the opportunity to give their observations. This provides an opportunity for you to explain your actions.

At the drill’s conclusion, discuss what went right, what went wrong, and what should be done differently next time.


If you have a similar drill idea, and wish to share it, please e-mail: [email protected].

To review training officer and safety officer considerations, visit http://fe.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=OnlineArticles&SubSection=HOME&PUBLICATION_ID=25&ARTICLE_ID=202453 to review training officer and safety officer considerations.

For more information on this drill, including a list of references, figures, and a sample SOP, visit http://store.yahoo.com/pennwell/voltraindril.html to purchase Volunteer Training Drills–A Year of Weekly Drills.

Next week’s drill: Physical Fitness II

FireEngineering.com Drill of the Week Archive