By Lauren Brant
Members of the Gordon Volunteer Fire Department held their annual hazardous materials training exercise Tuesday, April 24 to help them prepare for chemical spills.
There are six volunteer members qualified for hazmat scenarios – Neil Skinner, Toby Cotant, Ken Costello, Chad Rittgarn, Susan Hill, and Kyle Kruger. The exercise is part of the necessary training for the firefighters to maintain their qualification. During the training, firefighters suited up in Class A and B suits and went through a decontamination scenario. The Class A suits are blue and can be reused but it depends on the chemicals involved. Class B suits are silver and are typically used once. For the Class B suits, the air tank is worn on the outside while a Class A suit encases the air tank.
During last Tuesday’s training, the firefighters walked out to the flagpole outside the fire hall and had to take out two screws and put them into a board. That area is what is known as the hot zone in a hazmat situation.
Once the chemical is cleaned, they went through decontamination, also referred to as decon. Decon involves washing off chemicals on the suits prior to the firefighters taking them off. This process occurs at the scene of the spill and is referred to as the warm zone. While the materials are being hosed off, the people suited up stand in a pool, so the chemicals are captured and can be properly disposed.
“In our area the thing you would probably see that is if an anhydrous tank would tip over,” said Ken Costello.
The suit is equipped with an air tank, which causes the suits to inflate when people exhale. “The suits have flaps on them so you can compress down and burp the air out of them,” said Toby Cotant. “Most of the time you’ll get really tall because that suit will blow up.”
While the firefighters carry a 30 minute bottle, they are not in the suits for more than 10 to 15 minutes due to the conditions. Thus, hazmat situations can require multiple teams.
Emergency Medical Technicians also participated in the training by taking the firefighters’ blood pressure before and after the team went into the hot zone.
In the event of a chemical spill in the area, the Gordon Volunteer Fire Department will be prepped on protocol for safe decontamination of the scene and the suits.