The MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute unveiled a new mobile classroom Thursday morning at Whitten Hall dedicated to hazardous material or “hazmat” training.
The institute demonstrated the capabilities of its new training vehicle, which is meant to train firefighters across the state about how to deal with situations such as gas tank spills, dangerous chemical releases or even weapons of mass destruction.
David Hedrick, director of the Fire and Rescue Training Institute, said that after 9/11, training fire rescue workers about dealing with weapons of mass destruction has become a national standard.
“A lot of times, the initial explosion involves hazardous materials,” Hedrick said. “Firefighters are trained on how to limit the spread of potential hazards.”
The statewide program enlists experts from across Missouri to travel to local fire departments and hold 4- to 24-hour courses on mitigating such circumstances. The departments can request the following courses, among other options:
- First on the Drug Lab Scene: Operations
- Gasoline Tank Truck Specialist
- Hazardous Materials Incident Response: Technician
- Hazardous Materials Work Practice Refresher: Decon
- Hazardous Materials Work Practice Refresher: Detection
- Ignitable Liquids and Class B Foam
Although damages caused by these materials can be severe, they are rarely fatal. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 133 deaths have occurred in the last 10 years as a result of a hazmat incident. Since 85 percent of these fatalities occur on the highway, Hedrick said firefighters are specially trained on how to go into “hazmat mode” if it is required. They are trained about how to read the DOT placards, hazmat stickers on the trucks, to evaluate if there is potential for an explosion.
“They may find out that it’s not just a simple wreck, it’s a gas tanker spill,” Hedrick said. “Firefighters need to be prepared should they encounter that.”
Hedrick said the new trailer is now large enough to use as an on-site workspace and command post, and can fit more simulation props for rescue workers to train with.