Hazardous Materials Response
David Pease, Advanced Rescue Technology Magazine
If the extrication is involving a flammable hazard, then plenty of charged lines should be pulled and manned. The safety of your extrication team is your number one concern. Flammable liquids and gases are our number one concern when it comes to accidents because this is one of the most transported products. You may want to consider attaching safety lines to the extrication team for rapid extraction should a fire break out. Full structure fire fighting gear will allow you good protection. The fire approach or entry suit would allow you the best protection but would be harder to work in and most departments do not have these as a stock item.
If chemicals are involved then flammability may not be a concern. However do remember that certain chemicals are flammable and water should not be used as an extinguishing medium. You may find yourself working in chemical suits and SCBAs. Your ability to move and work with the hydraulic tools will be greatly reduced. Your coordination and visibility will be diminished and safety will become a major concern. We all know that working an extrication with no hazmat concerns can be tough by itself, but having to work in a limited environment with limited movement only makes it that much worse. Moving around the scene and vehicles has to be done with care so as not to fall or catch your hazmat suit on a jagged edge of metal and then breech the integrity of the suit placing your life in danger.
Ask yourself how many times your department has conducted extrication training wearing full turn out or bunker gear with a SCBA on or wearing a hazmat suit. I think if most of us were honest, we would find it happens very seldom. Most do not even like wearing turn out gear while training if it is warm outside. We find ourselves wearing gloves, helmet, goggles and a turn out coat most of the time.
We must first make sure our extrication team is trained to the hazmat operations level. I think all rescue personnel involved in extrication should be trained at an operations level as a minimum. This only increases their knowledge and reduces the department’s liability. They should also be well trained in vehicle extrication and extrication involving heavy trucks. This may take some extra classes to get everyone up to snuff to working with big rigs. Next it is time to have the team practice basic techniques such as roof removal, door displacement and dash displacement, while wearing full turnout gear along with an SCBA. Be sure to have a rehab area set up and plenty of water and fluids on hand. Do not let your team members push themselves to the point of exhaustion. Time your members to see how long they will be able to work on one tank of air. This will be good to know for the real situation. Each member should know how long they could perform wearing the full protective gear and the SCBA. Once they have become comfortable with working under those conditions, then give them some specific scenarios to work on. Several patients pinned in the front with another patient pinned in a second vehicle. You may then want to simulate some malfunction of some of the equipment and see how they handle that.