Hazardous Materials Response
David Pease, Advanced Rescue Technology Magazine
As a hazmat responder at the operations or technician level, it will be your job to provide medical treatment and extrication of the patients. You will be working in the hot zone. This may require you to work in full turn out gear or even level A, B, or C, suits. You may also have to wear SCBA or an inline breathing system. You will be wearing full protective equipment and be expected to get the job done. This will not only be hot, but cumbersome as well, and you will fatigue easier and dehydration may set in. Working under these conditions is not only physically demanding but mentally demanding also. You may want to consider rotating your personnel on a regular basis and provide plenty of rehab for them. If you are in an area where this is prone to happen you may want to consider purchasing cooling vests for your responders. Even in cool and cold weather environments, the body can become quite hot wearing full protective gear for any length of time. I think we all become guilty of not hydrating ourselves when we become engrossed in the moment, especially where long extrications are concerned.
Additional resources may need to be requested. Having enough personnel for crowd control is one major concern, but you may also need additional personnel trained at the operations or technician levels. You may also need specialists to handle or help control hazards that are present. Representatives from the gas industry, lineman from the Power Company, or chemical specialist that can give information as to the chemicals you may be dealing with. A foam truck from the airport fire department may need to be requested to lay down a blanket of foam at the scene. When heavy trucks are involved you may require large wreckers and even cranes to help in moving vehicles. However, you again run into the problem of how much training do these equipment handlers have, and is it advisable or safe to allow them to operate in the hot zone. Your command will have to decide and then weigh out the liability of allowing this to happen. The type of hazards must be weighed against the equipment needed to accomplish the extrication.
Most all of the powered hydraulic tools on the market operate in a closed system. This means that sparks will not occur during the operation of the power tools. Some power tools can even be used underwater, but that is another article. The problem you will encounter is the power unit would need to be out of the hot zone if you are using standard hydraulics. This could require a substantial amount of hose to reach the vehicles involved. The maximum hydraulic hose that most rescue trucks carry on a reel is one hundred feet. It may require twice that amount of hose to reach the vehicles. Now keep in mind that the more hose that is used the less power your tool may have. Most power units are not designed to supply the PSI rating at the end of a hundred feet of hose as they do at thirty feet of hose. Some power units do have the power to provide the needed PSI at the end of a hundred foot hose. Take the time to research and even test your unit to see what PSI rating you have at the power unit and then what you have at the end of a hundred foot section of hose. You may also want to see what that pressure is at the end of two hundred foot of hose. Most spreaders and cutters are relatively spark resistant. Care would still need to be utilized when cutting and spreading. Air bags would be an excellent consideration for these types of extrications. Sparks would be minimal and little exterior heat is produced. Your hydraulic units do get hot, so this should be a logistic consideration.