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Effective Hazmat First Response

Emergency responders are crucial to the outcome of hazardous waste disasters, and are responsible for minimizing damage. Inability to respond appropriately to hazardous material emergencies can lead to loss of life, property destruction, and other negative outcomes. For example, in the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, failure to respond correctly led to a massive radioactive contamination.

Different types of accidents necessitate different responses. For example, in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, trees, grass, plants, and about 4 centimeters of topsoil had to be removed – all of which could fill at least 20 football stadiums. So, cleanup took a long time and might not look like what you’d expect.

family observing hazmat response from safe distance

Here are some other scenarios that HAZMAT responders might encounter, and the ways they would respond to them:

Fires
Fires caused by hazardous materials must be contained immediately. Next, and probably most important, is to identify the causes and the risks. Different chemicals will produce different reactions, so it’s crucial to know what you’re dealing with. Looking for placards, labels, etc. is usually the way to determine next steps.

Radioactive Material
First responders would want to approach the incident from upwind and upslope. After isolating the area and identifying the materials involved, state and local authorities would be contacted, and you would work in conjunction with them to figure out next steps, based on the materials you are dealing with.

In both instances, there are any number of circumstances that could arise. For example, some vapors are invisible and have no odor, but are still extremely dangerous. HAZWOPER guidelines would help you determine the appropriate course of action for all possible scenarios.

With so many different outcomes and a high level of unpredictability, it’s important that trained professionals deal with the problems. Individuals with HAZWOPER certification learn how to respond to any hazardous material disaster. To learn more about our HAZWOPER training, see our course offerings here.

Sources:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-do-you-clean-up-after-a-nuclear-disaster/

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