Fall Edition 2009

In this edition, we feature expanded coverage in the area of Hazmat. It is such a vital area of the Fire Rescue EMS world, and we’re pleased to bring it to you.

We welcome Glen Clapp, president of the North Carolina Association of Hazardous Materials Responders (NCAHMR), and his expertise on all things hazmat. In this issue, Clapp covers the Annual Hazmat Competition, along with some amazing pictures from Michael Porowski. Read his feature article on the challenge of chlorine railcar enhanced fittings.

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Is your team protected?

The proper tools and equipment are imperative for professionals of all kinds to do their jobs safely and effectively. But the obvious differences are many when comparing pencil pushers to those out in the field who engage in changing and uncertain environments. Hazmat professionals form a unique fraternity of men and women that heavily relies on one of their most essential tools -- their hazmat suits -- for safety and protection.

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CO, an old enemy we are beginning to defeat

A better understanding of the presence of Carbon Monoxide (CO), more available training, new research, evolving equipment and shared experience are giving us the tools to finally relegate Carbon Monoxide poisoning to a manageable danger.

That’s the good news.

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Hazardous materials assessments

In the last hazardous materials issue of this magazine, I discussed doing assessments of hazardous materials that are traveling through your district on railways and roadways. Part two to a good hazardous materials assessment of your district is taking inventory of the hazardous materials facilities, or those facilities that stock hazardous materials.

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Bio threat detection review

There are a variety of technologies and techniques for detecting and identifying biologics, each with its advantages and disadvantages. All of these techniques have been derived from traditional laboratory practices and have evolved at different levels for use in the field by hazmat and first responders. Using a multi-tier approach and capitalizing on multiple technologies can bolster confidence in incident response and management. It is logical that the application of multiple techniques would add to the chances of a better response to an incident, but there is a cost associated that can be measured in training and logistics. Understanding the different classes of biologic detection technologies, their advantages, disadvantages, and logistics requirements can help hazmat and first responders better prepare for and frame the efficacy of their response.

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Hazmat: rapid recon and assessment

Throughout our careers, emergency service instructors have been teaching us to slow down when it comes to our response involving hazardous materials. Over the years, we have heard that message again and again. In fact, we have become very proficient in taking our time when responding into a hazardous materials incident. Certainly our main concern has been for the safety of our personnel. However, is it possible that we now take entirely too long to enter the proverbial Hot Zone?

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Decision-making in CWA response

(This is part one in a three-part series on gas detection.)
In responses to releases of Chemical Warfare Agent (CWA) there may not be one technology or one “answer” that is correct. The responder must take into account all of the clues present to conclude the presence or absence of CWAs and take appropriate action. Understanding what the clues are and how to layer them to make a decision is critical to successful CWA response.

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Relevant Tags: Rescue,cwas, vapor, chemical, agents, gas, detection, vapor pressure, stable persistent, vapor pressures, cwa response, nerve agents, chemical warfare, gas detection, normal temperatures, boiling point

Hazmat teams from across North Carolina display their skills at ANNUAL HAZMAT CHALLENGE

On Aug. 22nd, eight hazardous materials teams from across the State met in Raleigh for fun, fellowship, and competition in the Annual Hazmat Challenge. The Hazmat Challenge is an annual event sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Hazardous Materials Responders (NCAHMR) and is held at the North Carolina Firemen’s Association Conference/ South Atlantic Fire Expo. The 2009 Challenge drew a large number of spectators and featured unprecedented sponsor involvement and prizes for the top finishing teams.

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Chlorine railcar “enhanced fittings”

Imagine that you are a hazmat team member responding to a product leak from a chlorine railcar in your jurisdiction. Upon arrival of your team, you begin to “work” the incident in a traditional manner. The leaking railcar is identified. The product is confirmed to be chlorine. PPE compatibility is checked. Decontamination is set up. A Recon Group suits up to make an entry. A Back-Up Group suits up to stand by. The ICS structure is established. As a member of the Recon Group, you perform air monitoring en route to the railcar and notice that the leak appears to be emanating from the protective housing. 

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Extrication Education: back to basics

Continuing education
Last issue I talked about a major concern with the NC budget and the possibility of the community colleges having to charge public safety for continuing education classes in North Carolina. A lot of hard work went into e-mailing, calling and meeting with local house representatives and senators to have that issue removed from the new budget. Luckily, we will not have to pay for classes for the next two years. But please remember that this is the second time this has come up and I am sure it will come up again. Everyone needs to stay abreast of this and work toward keeping things status quo for the future.

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Driving distracted

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a training program that focused on drivers of commercial vehicles driving distracted. The program that I was involved in was based on a recent 100 car “naturalistic driving study” that was conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A naturalistic study observes drivers with multiple video cameras located both inside and outside the vehicle over a long period of time. Most drivers, when observed for short periods of time, will be on their best behavior. However, when the cameras become a normal part of the driver’s natural environment, most drivers lapse into their normal driving habits.

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Don’t depress - “de” press

Shortly after shift change, as acting Battalion Chief on Thanksgiving morning of 2005, a local television station called inquiring about a house fire that had just occurred hours prior. The reporter asked excitingly, “Did you have a fire last night at 123 Main Street?” I replied, “Yes.” The reporter immediately snapped off eagerly, “Did anyone die?” To which I responded in a monotone voice, just as quickly, “No.” The reporter sighed while letting out a dejected, sad, “Oh,” followed by a slightly more cheery, “Well, have a good Thanksgiving.”

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Relevant Tags: Education and Training,information, media, fire, public, incident, public information, information officer, hazardous materials, accurate information, fire department, good choices, with limited

Ask not...

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Most of us have heard this famous quote, one that was actually borrowed by President John F. Kennedy during his 1961 inaugural address. Regardless of the original source, the message remains the same. As you are well aware, the national economy has taken, and continues to take, a serious hit. As consumer spending and subsequent sales tax revenue decline, state governments are being forced to eliminate all non-essential programs. Ultimately, local budgets are affected as the downturn eventually trickles to the local level. Most emergency services already operate on a lean budget. In paid departments, it is not uncommon for 90 percent or more of the total budget to be allocated for salaries alone, leaving little for fuel, station maintenance, and gear replacement, and the list goes on and on.

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Small arms ammunition can be dangerous to responders

During the past year, more people than ever before have been buying larger than normal quantities of ammunition and reloading components. There are many reasons for those purchases -- and I will not try to cover them in this article.

I will, however, try to bring out some of the additional dangers posed to us, the responders on a fire or other emergency.

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Carbon monoxide poisoning

Through the development of technology, pulse oximetry has become a standard vital sign for prehospital providers. Why then do we not pay attention to the data and studies and avoid the use of them on the fire scene or in the monitoring and treatment of burn and smoke inhalation patients?

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Training dollars and “sense”

"Training is one of the most challenging jobs in all of public safety.” I heard this statement in a class I attended some time ago, and I have thought about it over the years. I have amended that statement made all those years ago in that classroom to say, “Doing training well is one of the most challenging jobs in public safety.”

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Fighting fire with foam

As ethanol production and use continues to expand to all parts of the U.S., it is inevitable that most American’s will encounter ethanol in one way or another. There are 196 ethanol production facilities located in the US and today nearly all unleaded gasoline is blended with 10 percent ethanol. Safety is and will always continue to be a top priority for America’s ethanol industry and those who transport and bring ethanol to the marketplace. It is important that those responsible for the safety of their communities are well prepared and trained for responding to ethanol related emergencies.

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H1N1: What every first responder should know

Public health and other first responder agencies have been in planning mode for a pandemic influenza event for many years now. Unfortunately, that planning was used for the first time this year since 1968. In April of this year the “swine flu” (a novel flu virus known as H1N1) was first confirmed in Mexico. Since then over 254,000 people have gotten sick and over 2800 have died worldwide (Source: World Health Organization, as of September 8, 2009). 

Every pandemic has waves. The first wave in North America ended around the end of the school year. However, we need to be more vigilant now as we expect a second wave anytime.

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Relevant Tags: EMS,virus, flu, vaccine, h1n1, ems, health, flu virus, seasonal flu, first responder, h1n1 virus, flu vaccine, novel flu, public health, novel virus

Air management and the prevention problem

Let me take a quick second to stand on my soapbox. Have you ever noticed that we in the fire service are quick and passionate when it comes to training on things like RIT, Mayday Drills and Self Rescue? This is a good thing, but have you also noticed that we tend to be equally as passionate against preventive training and actions? Have you ever been written up for not wearing a seatbelt or using a backer? What was your response? I bet there was passion, but not the good kind!

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Looking at boots and packs

Awhile back we looked at OTB water boots, one of the best water boots I have come across. They also make several styles of tactical land boots that have some of the same features as their water boots. I had a chance to wear the Bushmaster tactical boot while I was in Guatemala, and it was extremely comfortable and wore really well. The boot looks almost like the Abyss, one of their water boots, but obviously does not have the holes for water drainage. The Bushmaster boots come in black or tan and are a lower cut style boot. The boot has a mesh quarter panel that keeps your foot cooler, and a dual cushioned inner bed for better wicking and comfort. This lightweight boot is comfortable to wear, has great traction with the vibram sole, and a reinforced rubber toe and heel for climbing. This boot also features reinforced lace loops and an irregular lace so it will not come untied in the field. This is a great lightweight tactical and search boot.

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Preserving the arson scene

Unlike a burglary or homicide scene, the preservation of the potential arson scene is a more difficult task for the 1st Responder. If you think about it, often arson scenes aren’t confirmed as actual crime scenes until hours, days or weeks after the fire is suppressed! For this reason alone all fire scenes must be considered potential crime scenes from the outset. 

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Stimulating your department

Did your Department apply for this grant? Were you successful? If not, will there be another opportunity next year?

In the last article we looked in depth at the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 which provided the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with $210,000,000 to fund the construction and modifications of fire stations. The program is administered by the Assistance to Firefighters Program Office under FEMA’s Grant Programs Directorate. The grants under this new program are being awarded directly to the fire departments on a competitive basis.

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Why take investment risk?

Last year’s stock market decline created significant stress for investors. Unfortunately, in times like last year, we often see investors panicking and moving out of risky assets such as stocks into safer holdings like savings accounts or Treasury bills. But the truth is these safer investments have never produced the kinds of real returns that most investors need. Safe investments like savings accounts or Treasury bills might eliminate investment risk, but they introduce another problem: purchasing power risk.

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Improve your incident command system

(The following is part two of a two part series on your command plan.)

Incident management
The term “Incident Command System” has been used since the mid 1980s. In the 90s we termed it “Incident Management System.” No matter what you call the system you use, there are several functions that must be simultaneously completed. NFPA 1500, Incident Management, 8.1.8

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Don’t teach them everything you know

If you have been in the fire service or EMS for a significant period of time, you’re likely to make decisions based upon experience gained over the course of your career. Seasoned personnel more often use protocols as a guide, taking book knowledge, written protocols and incident-specific details all into consideration. This most often results in a positive outcome, uses minimal resources and takes the best interest of the patient or property owner to heart.

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South Carolina fire service embraces cultural change

For a number of years the national fire service has experienced some 100 plus firefighter line-of-duty fatalities annually. Additionally, injuries sustained by our firefighters linger around 80,000 each year. Providing solutions to the fatality and injury issues seem easy in light of the tremendous data base of information relating to the causes. However, the solutions become clouded when we begin to apply those lessons learned to the cultural environment in which we, as a service, have been reared.

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Interoperability key to firefighters’ future success

As firefighters battled flames inside the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001 they were faced with an even larger obstacle. Fire rescue personnel, lacking communications equipment compatible with that used by other responders at the scene, including members of the New York Police Department, were unable to receive warnings of the buildings’ inevitable collapse.

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A comprehensive EMS telemedicine system

(The following is part one of a three part series on EMS telemedicine.)
BR Med-Connect is an EMS telemedicine system recently installed in East Baton Rouge Parish (BR), Louisiana. Currently in a pilot phase, the system is fully functional and is now being used for actual patient care. The system has been planned by, and is now managed by an interdisciplinary team representing each of the system’s key components. This team has selected and begun to implement a diverse group of medical applications for actual patient care and study purposes. It is expected that the program will prove successful and cause many in EMS to revisit their concept of EMS telemedicine.

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Benefits of the Electronic Medical Record

Are electronic medical records necessary in the healthcare? How can electronic medical records be managed more effectively? This article will address those questions.

Electronic medical records (EMRs) have received a lot of attention recently from the healthcare community. Records are a very important part of the healthcare process and using computers wisely can only benefit the patient. If the proper information is gathered at registration this patient information will be reviewed by the healthcare provider. This information can be transferred to other providers or the hospital or other clinics if needed. This definitely saves time for both the patient and the front desk personnel and the healthcare provider.

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Healthy life style

Saving lives. Isn’t that the heart of what firefighting and emergency medical services are all about? What about your own life?

I’ve been to several fire/ EMS tradeshows lately to introduce our new firefighter’s treadmill and it’s very concerning how overweight, and even obese, many public safety workers are. Many firefighters don’t appear physically capable of performing their job in intensely demanding situations when people’s lives are on the line.

The American Medical Association recently came out with a report that said one-third of all Americans are obese and another one-third is overweight. This leaves only one-third of the American population that has a healthy weight for their height and body type.

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What’s new with struts and gloves?

Several years back, I wrote about the Rescue Jack stabilization struts. Now they have introduced a new line of struts that only improve on previous ones. The new X-Struts will give rescuers more stability, capability and versatility.

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