Hazmat simulation: Automobile vs. Tank Car

Simulation by CommandSim and Captain Joshua McGuoirk, Philadelphia (PA) Fire Department

It is a cold Fall morning. Dispatch receives a call from a bystander that an automobile has collided with a tank car…



The U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reports that hundreds of millions of metric tones of hazardous materials are being used and/or transported in the United States yearly. Emergency responders will be called to respond to incidents involving the accidental or non-accidental release of these products. Although unfortunate, major incidents bring this to national attention periodically, for example, the 2005 chlorine release in Graniteville, South Carolina, such potential threats surround us and remind us of the need to be prepared (for more about this incident, see http://www.cdc.gov/mmwR/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5403a2.htm).

This scenario touches upon one aspect of transportation–rail–that can be parlayed into any mode of transportation. First, responders must know the extent of what they can do, considering the level of training completed, i.e., awareness, operations or technician level. Remember to follow all state and federal rules and regulations while operating at a hazardous materials incident and, more importantly, to use local standard operating procedures.

This scenario can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the type of incident you want to exercise and experience of the participants. It has the following special features:


  • Four different placarding: Acetone, Sulfuric Acid, Chlorine, and none;
  • The tank car can leak Chlorine, Acetone (or any fluid you decide), or nothing;
  • Up to three victims can be placed: a driver, a passenger, and an ejected victim;
  • Banner tape can be shown to separate the hot, warm, and cold zones;
  • The car can show no smoke, light smoke, heavy smoke and fire, and a knockdown condition;
  • Participants can use binoculars, a thermal imaging camera (TIC) and/or a multigas meter to help assess the situation.  You the instructor can determine which tools are available to the participants; and,
  • Using the thermal imaging camera, the participant can see that the rail cars appear to be about ⅔ to ¾ full.


Where do I go from here? Get a sample exercise sequence that shows you one scenario you can model with this simulation.
What am I looking for? Advice on sizing-up the structure and other important tactical considerations.
What does this thing do? Here’s a chart of possible outcomes and curveballs you can throw into the scenario, as well as navigation instructions.







The scenario and accompanying materials have been designed by Philadelphia (PA) Fire Department Captain Joshua McGuoirk. The technical development and production was done by CommandSim. All materials may not be copied or distributed without the expressed, written permission of Fire Engineering and the PennWell Corporation, copyright 2007, all rights reserved.



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