Picatinny provides vital hazardous materials training to community partners

By Eric KowalMay 17, 2024

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - An International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) instructor explains the proper techniques to decontaminate the entrant in Level A protection suit after they performed tasks in the hot zone.  Officials with the Picatinny Arsenal Fire Department (PAFD), in conjunction with the IAFF, hosted a 10-day (80-hour) participant-centered, Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Technician training program for first responders on April 22-May 3. Multiple local fire departments and other organizations participated in the training.
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - An International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) instructor explains the proper techniques to decontaminate the entrant in Level A protection suit after they performed tasks in the hot zone. Officials with the Picatinny Arsenal Fire Department (PAFD), in conjunction with the IAFF, hosted a 10-day (80-hour) participant-centered, Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Technician training program for first responders on April 22-May 3. Multiple local fire departments and other organizations participated in the training. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - With a high potential of danger from the spill and spread of hazardous materials, training emergency response teams to deal effectively with such incidents has become increasingly vital.

HazMat is a common term to describe varying toxins, chemicals, fuels, nuclear waste products, and agents (biological, chemical, radiological). Any substance that poses a potential risk to the environment, property, and the safety and health of living creatures, especially humans, is categorized as a hazmat.

Officials with the Picatinny Arsenal Fire Department (PAFD), in conjunction with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), hosted a 10-day (80-hour) participant-centered, Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Technician training program for first responders on April 22-May 3. Multiple local fire departments and other organizations participated in the training.

Being prepared for hazardous materials emergency response is key for firefighters, medical response teams, police, military, and other emergency responders. Years ago, this type of training was limited to select firefighters and military personnel. Today, the risk for hazmat scenarios is high across the country with the development, transportation, and use of hazardous materials.

A hazmat situation can occur at the local grocery store or gas station, gardening centers, and even office buildings. While these locations tend to use hazardous materials that are known to the local emergency responders, including the fire department, what is stored on someone’s private property can be an unknown hazard. Comprehensive training and knowledge with the management of potential situations is crucial to every fire department and emergency responders.

The HazMat Technician course, designed specifically for fire and rescue personnel who may respond to incidents involving hazardous materials and/or weapons of mass destruction was held at Picatinny’s Homeland Defense Technology Center.

“The Hazardous Materials Technician course was a resounding success,” said Charles Dickinson, Battalion Chief of Special Operations, PAFD. “It has better prepared the attendees with essential knowledge, skills, and abilities to handle a hazardous materials incident safely and effectively. Interoperability played a crucial role amongst the participating agencies.

“This collaboration extends beyond emergencies, emphasizing the importance of mutual aid partnerships, where preparedness and cooperation are equally vital. Not only has the course enhanced individual competencies, but it also fostered a culture of teamwork and readiness within our response community.”

Aside from personnel assigned to Picatinny Arsenal Fire and Emergency Services, trainees included representatives from the Dover Fire Department, Morris County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar Knolls Fire Department, Morristown Airport Fire Department/Rockaway Township Volunteer Fire Department, Trenton Airport Fire Department/Wharton Volunteer Fire Department, and Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, Philadelphia Shipyard.

Upon completion of the course, participants can analyze an incident to determine the complexity of the problem and potential outcomes, plan a response including developing response objectives, and identify potential response options. They also learned to select required personal protective equipment (PPE), the technical decontamination process, and develop an incident action plan.

“Every member of the Picatinny Arsenal Fire and Emergency Services conducts self-assessments and establishes goals for individual training requirements and professional development opportunities to further career progression,” said Troy Christman, PAFD Fire Chief. “Hazardous Materials Technician is the highest level of professional certification and education for the Firefighters here at Picatinny Arsenal so that personnel can perform duties that are consistent with the desired outcome of life, health, and safety.”

Trainees are also able to implement the planned response consistent with local emergency response plans and/or standard operating procedures by performing the duties of the hazmat branch: donning, doffing, and working in PPE; and perform control functions and decontamination.

Trainees learned that it is imperative that every first responder understands the sequence of events that lead to a hazardous material operation and the safe and legal techniques to use in such a situation.

“Due to the nature of Hazardous Material Incidents, having world class training to get people certified is extremely important,” said Christopher Foster, Picatinny Arsenal’s Director of Emergency Services, and former PAFD Fire Chief.

“Because of our mission, interoperability with our mutual aid partners plays a crucial role. Therefore, having certified firefighters around us, helps us meet the challenge we may face ahead. HazMat incidents need a lot of firefighters working together to mitigate an incident and the certification plays a key role in how the firefighters are used. Being able to provide this training for ourselves and our partners is a major benefit to meet the Army Mission.”