Story by Laurie Pearson on 02/24/2017Firefighters from Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the Army's Fort Irwin, and the cities of Anaheim, Barstow and Victorville, are engaged in ongoing training in the handling of hazardous materials through courses held aboard MCLB Barstow, Calif.
"We plan, train and prepare for all types of CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosives) and Hazmat incidents," said Korey Butz, CBRNE protection officer. He has more than 16 years of experience in emergency and disaster management between MCLB Barstow and the U.S. Army as well as the Department of State's Weapons of Mass Destruction Countermeasures Division. "This training will be exercised later this year in a biological full-scale exercise on the installation. A new base order for installation CBRNE protection is in the works, as well as a shelter in place/evacuation plan for CBRNE events."
The training is required by law and provided through the California Specialized Training Institute, California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), said Butz. The contractor that conducts the instruction is IEC, Industrial Emergency Council, and the instructors have all been retired firefighters assigned to HazMat teams or environmental response units throughout California. All of the instructors, so far, have all had over 25 years of service in the field.
At the end of the first phase of training, the firefighters will be certified as Hazardous Materials Technicians, allowing them to respond to incidents involving hazardous materials effectively.
"The curriculum covers everything pertaining to HazMat response, including, Chemistry, weather, laws, highway and rail transportation, portable and fixed storage facilities, terrorism, drug labs, chemical reference materials, identifying unknown chemicals, chemical protective clothing, safety, and Incident Command System," explained Jim Lytle, IEC Training instructor.
"HazMat training is essential, because it is one of the many types of emergencies MCLB Barstow Fire and Emergency Services personnel respond to," said Gregory Kunkel, emergency medical services chief on base. "It is crucial that fire personnel have an understanding in chemical properties and emergency procedures in mitigating intentional and unintentional releases of these products."
During the training, they engage in hands-on exercises in full Personal Protective Equipment, to include a protective suit and Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus. While in this gear they must plug, patch or otherwise stop the release of simulated hazardous substances. They also simulate injuries, for which they must implement rescue equipment and personnel decontamination procedures. Logistically, this area could face various hazardous risks.
"The railroads and Highways 15 and 40 could present a significant problem," Lytle said, "with the amount of hazardous materials transported thru this area."
The next goal is to certify the firefighters as specialists in the handling of HazMat explained Butz. The duties of a specialist mirror those of the technicians, but include more specific knowledge of various substances and would act as site liaison to government authorities.
"The training is very beneficial to our job," said Dallas Joyner, firefighter with MCLB Barstow. "It's realistic training, with instruments and tools we would actually be using. The training makes us that much more effective at our jobs."