HAZMAT Training A Weeklong Focus Of Area Fire Departments

Training to be  'Tech Level' in HAZMAT was the purpose of this weeks exercise. (photo by Ginger Allsup)

Training to be ‘Tech Level’ in HAZMAT was the purpose of this weeks exercise. (photo by Ginger Allsup)

Oskaloosa, Iowa – Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is the foundation to the structure by which local emergency personal train.

This past week, Oskaloosa Fire Department along with the departments from New Sharon and Cedar Township Fire and Mahaska County Emergency Management participated in several classes that are part of the process of becoming ‘tech level’ trained in case of a HAZMAT situation.

During the training, the winds actually were pushing towards Oskaloosa, from the Farm Service lot, making the scenario seem even more real.

Area fire departments, along with assistance of the local Farm Service, took the opportunity to train with anhydrous ammonia. “Anhydrous ammonia is the number one hazardous material that’s released in Iowa as far as having calls for service,” Oskaloosa Fire Chief Mark Neff explained.

Neff explained that in the Oskaloosa Fire District alone, there are three facilities. Neff said that the department does respond to those calls, either at an operations level or a tech level. “We’re wanting to take us to tech level period, so we can go in and get these leaks stopped. We don’t have to wait for Ottumwa to come to respond.”

Most area residents remember an evacuation that took place in town because of a hazardous leak on a rail car that displaced residents. Local fire and emergency workers were unable to simply close the valve because they lacked the certification and equipment to help solve the problem before responders from Ottumwa could make it on scene. Neff explained, “To me, the goal should be, can we improve on the services we’re providing? My answer to that is yes.”

“In the realm of public safety, anything that we can do to improve service and improve the safety of the citizens, that’s what we need to be doing,” commented Neff.

In the HAZMAT training scenario being addressed on Wednesday, firefighters were able to ‘rescue’ an individual who was injured or trapped in the HAZMAT spill, something Neff explained, “what we couldn’t do before was stop that leak.”

Once the rescue was completed, the department would then have to back up and wait for SERG to respond. “To me, that’s unacceptable… we just need to be trained to do it.”

“Why would we not want to get trained? Why would we settle for a two hour response time, when we can be here… get it rectified, as quickly and safely as possible.”

Mahaska County Emergency Manager Jamey Robinson said the purpose of the training was to get local emergency responders to the next level. “As we move forward with the county wide HAZMAT team it was a must that we have the technician level training. This is a main piece in our departments taking over the HAZMAT responsibilities. We realize that there are still things we are trying to figure out with the county, but feel it was important to make sure we, as a group, continue moving forward.”



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