This was the second year the conference was located in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore since its move from Hunt Valley. It was also a record breaking year for attendance with nearly 1,100 attendees. While some of the classrooms were busting at the seams to contain the attendees, everyone seemed to be understanding of the situation. As an indication as to the level of interest, people packed into the rooms filling every possible seat, often spilling into the halls.
The field trips offered great experiences. I did speak with several people who enjoyed the trips and the training they received. The class on Haz-Mat RIT titled Saving your Own offered great hands-on experience and plenty of suit time for the participant. “The realistic train car exercise was remarkably true to life,” said one participant.
Several icons in the hazardous materials community were recognized during the opening ceremony. Greg Noll (Noll and Hildebrand) received the John Eversole Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of contribution to educating responders about hazardous materials. Danny Snell (Houston Fire Dept.), and Steve Patrick (FBI HMRU) both received the Level A award for their mentoring, commitment to training, and the continuation in moving the hazardous materials response field forward.
Tim Butters (PHMSA), past chairman of the Hazardous Materials Committee was awarded the Chairman’s Award by the new Chairman, Robert “Bob” Royall, Jr. for his assistance in continuing to move the committee forward. President and Chairman of the IAFC, Chief Jack Parow paid a visit to the conference. He expressed his sincerest appreciation to the hazardous materials responders protecting our communities.
The educational opportunities were nearly endless with almost 100 different sessions to choose from over the four and a half days of the conference. I obviously could not even make a dent in the schedule, but I was able to meet with colleagues and discuss sessions I was unable to attend.
There were sessions covering metering possibilities, risk assessment, case studies, scene management, safety, container construction and mitigation, training on the various modes of transportation, chemical specific training, as well as many others. These sessions were lead by industry leaders in response, management, detection, clean-up, and transportation. This year several sessions were added for the company officer and team leaders, as well as advanced level courses.
The event is a who’s who in the hazardous materials response community, but the great thing about the event is that everyone is treated equally. There are no egos strutting around, and you might possibly be sitting next to some of those iconic hazmat awardees during a classroom session. If not sitting next to them you will definitely have the opportunity to bend their ear in great conversation during one of the many networking events.
The networking sessions and down time between sessions offers the attendee a chance to meet up with old acquaintances, network with peers in their specific field, or ask the question that were thought of after a session. The greatest networking session takes place on Saturday evening. The event allows everyone to gather in a relaxed atmosphere with usually some form of comedic entertainment.
During the week’s event new attendees are encouraged to seek out a more seasoned attendee to act as a mentor. This mentoring leads to a strong foundation and passing of information to future leaders in the hazardous materials community. The mind set of this concept is that the new attendees will be fostered into becoming future presenters and educators in the hazardous materials community.
Several years ago I sought out such a person, and since then have continued to meet other great individuals in the hazardous materials community. Not only in response, but industry, transportation, regulatory, and clean-up. The numerous networking events during the conference set it apart from many of the other conferences I have attended.
There were dozens of vendors specific to the hazmat community. Many explained the awesome training opportunities that exist to the first responder community. Others showed off the latest and greatest equipment available on the market. The second edition of the Pipeline Emergencies course was debuted. The guys from HazMat IQ were on hand with newly updated hand outs, as well as providing several opportunities to attend their very informative courses.
Environics USA was there with the newly updated ChemPro100i for CWA’s, and the folks from Thermo Scientific were showing off their newest line of instruments, First Defender RMX, and the TruDefender FTi, which includes an embedded mobile phone to link the entry team with the command post as well as direct reach back support.
Glen Rudner’s closing address to the conference on Suicide Bombing — An Israeli Phenomenon, offered a personal perspective from his visit to Israel, as well as practical considerations for first responders. He explained how the government and the citizens work together on preparedness and have developed a very efficient system of prevention, response and recovery. Rudner provided some thoughts from the government and the citizen perspectives, and how such events could impact the United States. “It was a presentation well worth getting up early for on a Sunday morning,” said Chris Hawley.
I strongly recommend anyone actively involved with a hazardous materials response team to attend the conference next year. The conference has something for everyone, whether you’re the new guy on the team, a company officer, or the Chief of Special Operations.