Hazardous materials such as chemicals, flammable gases, petroleum products, and radioactive material pose risks when they become involved in fires. These types of fires require special equipment, strategies, and knowledge. Because of the potential dangers of responding to hazardous materials fires, hazmat firefighters must be trained in advance.
In addition to formal training, hazmat firemen should possess good situational awareness and self-confidence. Below are 10 tips for hazmat firefighters to help them get ready for their first or subsequent firefighting experience.
Know What You Are Being Trained For
There are a variety of hazards that may need to be handled during a fire; some can be dangerous to both responders and civilians.
Hazmat fire departments usually specialize in one area: chemical spills (e.g., cleaning up chemical leaks), explosions (e.g., decontamination after an explosion), or radiation leakage (e.g., decontaminating or repairing contaminated areas).
Hazmat firefighters spend years in specialized training before being able to put the skills they gain into action at the scene of a real emergency.
Become Familiar With Your Department’s Routine
In order to properly respond to a situation involving hazardous substances, hazmat firefighters need to know what to expect from the department that will respond.
Knowing where the department keeps its equipment, how it responds to alarms, how long it takes to arrive on the scene, and what type of training is required will help you feel more prepared.
Understand The Safety Protocols Of Hazardous Materials
Firefighters must understand the safety protocols associated with working in hazardous environments so their response is efficient and effective.
They also need to be aware of the dangers posed by these types of fires so they avoid exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation.
Make Sure You Have Enough Equipment
When preparing for a hazmat fire scenario, make sure you have what you need to get the job done right! This includes protective clothing, adequate oxygen supply , protective eyewear,…
Watch out for tunnel vision
Hazmat crews often work in cramped quarters or have little air flow, so they can see clearly and maintain proper ventilation. This creates an increased risk for heat stress and eye strain.
Practice Proper Firefighting Techniques
If you’re not comfortable performing your job, you will likely lose your focus and confidence.
Hazmat fire departments prepare hazmat firefighters by teaching them how to safely extinguish all types of fires, including those involving hazardous materials.
Prepare Yourself To Handle the Stress
Some of the most frightening scenarios for hazmat firefighters occur when they encounter victims who cannot or will not communicate. It is important to practice calm under pressure so you remain focused and confident when you do encounter such people.
Even though you may be frightened, you cannot let your fear overcome your judgment. After all, it is your job to save lives and protect property.
Be Patient and Persistent
If your first attempt to communicate with someone fails, don’t give up! Approach the situation with patience and persistence until you can establish communication and gain access to the scene where everyone is safe and sound.
Then, you can relax because your job has been completed successfully!
Check out this post for more tips on communication for bad weather.
Be Prepared for Anything
If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to make sure that every member of your team is familiar with the full range of hazards they may face in the field while responding to a hazmat incident.
Review your team’s training materials so every member knows exactly what to do if a dangerous situation unfolds during a response call: how to protect themselves from injury or illness, how to identify potential threats, and how to deal safely with any hazardous materials.
Finally, review your department’s plan so everyone understands what their specific role within the incident is expected to perform in case of an accident.
Be Proactive – Stay Alert
The best way to stay alert and be prepared for a hazardous materials fire is by keeping abreast of the latest information about hazardous materials and fire trends.
Keep up-to-date on hazmat emergencies, incidents, and news and share this information with other hazmat teams.