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The Need for Regular First Responder HAZMAT Training


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

911 emergencies are a daily occurrence, but no two 911 situations are the same. For instance, there are two kinds of individuals who are affected by an emergency: the victims and the first responders. More importantly, events unfold differently depending on the emergency.

That is why it is important for agencies to offer frequent, in-service training. Only through training can first responders learn how to react to different events.

Training to handle various hazardous materials (HAZMAT) emergencies is particularly important, because first responders will not be faced with the same situations all the time. That makes it even more important to strengthen their understanding of how to handle different hazardous situations.

For Emergency Medical Services, Exposure to Hazardous Materials Is Rare

From the perspective of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, most of their 911 calls deal with medical and trauma emergencies. It is rare for hazardous materials to affect an emergency unless it involves a spill of some toxic substance or the release of a harmful airborne substance.

That doesn't mean, however, that first responders will never be exposed at some point to hazardous materials. In any case, first responders’ discussions of hazardous materials should occur on a regular basis with first responders, EMTs and paramedics. That way, they will all be well-versed on how to handle different chemical spills and chemical exposures.

The Collaboration of First Responders and Public Safety Agencies

First responders are learning more about how the collaborative network of public safety agencies comes together to manage hazardous situations. HAZMAT exposure requires other agencies to be on hand at the emergency scene to help manage first responder activities.

With adequate and recurring training, first responders will better understand how to manage situations involving HAZMAT substances. Only then will first responders be able to improve and strengthen their skills.

Glynn Cosker Glynn Cosker is the Managing Editor of EDM Digest. Glynn has more than 20 years of writing experience, and he’s the Managing Editor of EDM Digest's sister blog site: In Homeland Security. Born and raised in the U.K., he began his career in government and spent 12 years working in the Consular Section of the British Embassy in Washington – attaining the rank of Vice Consul in the late 1990s. Glynn and his family live in New England.