National Fire Academy Offers Hazardous Materials Curriculum

The National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland is a tremendous training resource for anyone involved in the fire service. You can attend one class per year where the majority of the costs — tuition, travel and lodging — will be covered by the federal government. Your department only has to give you the time off, cover your position while you’re away and pay for the meal ticket while you’re staying on campus. If you would like to attend more than one class a year, it is certainly possible, but you are ineligible for additional travel reimbursements. Curriculums include: Emergency Medical Services, Fire Arson and Explosion Investigation, Hazardous Materials, Incident Management, Leadership and Executive Development, Planning and Information Management, Responder Health and Safety, Training Programs, Wildland Urban Interface and Fire Prevention (Management, Public Education and Technical). This article will focus on the courses in the Hazardous Materials curriculum including what the course is about and whom the course is designed for.


Six-day classes start on Sunday morning and graduate on Friday afternoon. Your travel days are the Saturday before class starts and the Saturday after the class ends. Ten-day classes start on Monday morning and graduate on the next Friday morning. Travel days for the 10-day classes are the Sunday before class starts and the Friday when class ends. The federal government will either pay for your round trip plane ticket — and bus you to and from the airport and National Fire Academy — or pay a flat fee to reimburse you for driving your own vehicle. Classes generally start at 0800 and end at 1700, but this will depend on the instructors and the speed at which the material is being covered and absorbed. Some night sessions may be required, but this is not always the case.

All courses require pre-requisite training in the Incident Command System. This training includes either ICS-100 and -200 level — which most firefighters get with their initial recruit or Firefighter I and II level training — or the NFA Online courses ICS-100: Introduction to ICS for Operational First Responders Q0462 and ICS-200: Basic NIMS ICS for Operational First Responders Q0463.

Advanced Life Support Response to Hazardous Materials Incidents

This 10-day course is designed for paramedic personnel who have an advanced life support (ALS) emergency medical responsibility at hazardous materials incidents, and it promises a rigorous experience for the student. In-depth chemistry, as it relates to hazardous materials, the medical management of victims, and the development and management of the hazardous materials components of the medical support system are the three primary focuses of this course. Toxicology and decontamination procedures are covered from an advanced EMS viewpoint. Strategies for safe emergency medical interaction with contaminated victims are discussed in detail.

Students selected for this course are generally ALS emergency medical personnel who, as a part of their normal duties, may be needed to perform patient care in the warm zone at hazardous materials incidents or patient care of individuals or groups exposed or contaminated with hazardous materials or weaponized chemical agents. These may include paramedics, physician assistants, medical doctors or registered nurses. Unfortunately, Emergency Medical Technicians are not eligible for attendance in this class.

Chemistry for Emergency Response

This 10-day course is designed to prepare the emergency responder to function safely at the scene of a hazardous materials incident by understanding the potential hazards. This is accomplished by gaining recognition of chemical nomenclature and basic principles of chemistry in order to assess risks to responders and the public. The course seeks to convey to first responders or prevention personnel a sound understanding of the basic chemistry of hazardous materials to permit them to correctly assess the threat posed by hazardous materials incidents that may occur accidentally or intentionally.

Problem-solving sessions and interactive discussion cover topics such as salts and inorganic non-salts, hydrocarbons, hydrocarbon derivatives and hydrocarbon radicals. Applying the science of chemistry to thermodynamics, volatility and combustion provides real-world opportunities. An understanding of basic chemistry is helpful to receive maximum benefit from the course.

Students selected for this class are generally emergency response personnel who have responsibility for analysis, management and/or tactical response to hazardous materials incidents; and fire prevention inspectors, hazardous materials inspectors, regulators and planners where knowledge of the chemical behavior of hazardous materials is essential.

If you are working towards your certification as a Hazardous Materials Technician in North Carolina, you will need to successfully complete this class — and show that you have passed it — before you take the OSFM Hazardous Materials Technician course.

Hazardous Materials Code Enforcement

This six-day course is designed to guide students in gaining and sharing the knowledge, skills and abilities to effectively recognize and analyze hazardous materials risk, classify the materials, and apply the codes, standards and regulations to prevent incidents and mitigate threats to life and property. Upon completion of the course, students learn how to analyze the level of fire and life safety inside and outside of occupied and unoccupied structures or facilities that handle, use, store, transport and dispose of hazardous materials. Learning is accomplished through interactive lecture, group activities and testing.

The students will study: Identification and classification of hazardous materials, application of codes and control methods, planning by analyzing risk and vulnerability and demonstration of risk-reduction techniques.

Students selected for this course include hazardous materials inspectors, fire safety personnel, plans reviewers, building officials, planners and safety personnel responsible for ensuring fire and life safety.

Hazardous Materials Incident Management

This six-day course focuses on the duties and responsibilities of the emergency response personnel who will assume the Incident Commander (IC) role in hazardous materials emergencies above the initial response and will implement a National Incident Management System (NIMS)-based Incident Command System (ICS). Based on the current requirements of 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.120 and the applicable national standards and plans, the program follow three phases of an incident: preplanning, incident operations and post-incident responsibilities. This course meets the NIMS requirements for ICS-300.

Topics include negligence and liability, planning, NIMS ICS/Emergency Operations Center (EOC) interface, training requirements, and emergency response plans. The student will develop a hazard-based response using risk-based decision-making to develop an Incident Action Plan. The student’s knowledge of the subject is evaluated through written tests and graded scenarios. Evening classes and projects are required.

Students selected for this course include emergency response personnel who may be called upon to assume the duties of the Incident Commander at hazardous materials incidents, Safety Officers, departmental training officers, chief officers, company officers and regularly acting officers and emergency management personnel who would interface with emergency response personnel through an EOC operation at a hazardous materials incident.

It is important to note that experience with hazardous materials response or certification as a hazardous materials technician is NOT necessary nor is it a pre-requisite for this course. In some cases, this course is a little easier for people who don’t have a background in hazardous materials as those with a hazardous materials background can get bogged down “in the weeds” worrying about tactics as opposed to the intent of the class which is incident management.

Hazardous Materials Operating Site Practices

This 10-day course focuses on the relationship of incident priorities, strategies and tactics as they relate to implementing safe procedures for alleviating the risk at an accidental or intentional hazardous materials incident. It concentrates on integrating risk-based decision-making and knowledge about hazardous materials chemistry, storage, transportation and release scenarios with information about local response plans and systems. Through risk-based decision-making activities, the course participants apply the knowledge and skills gained from the course.

Subjects covered include, among others: regulations and standards as they apply to hazmat teams, hazard interpretation, damage assessment, site characterization, use and interpretation of environmental monitoring instruments, selection of personal protective equipment, assessment of tactical options and development of operational plans.

Students selected for this course include emergency response personnel having hazardous materials response or training responsibility at the technician/specialist level.

Special Operations Program Management

This six-day course is designed to guide students in gaining and sharing the knowledge, skills and abilities to effectively develop, manage and lead hazardous materials and/or other all-hazards special operations response capabilities used in specialized emergency response. Upon completion of the course, students learn how to analyze the complexities, dynamics and interrelationships of the components of special operations.

Through the interactive lecture, group activities and testing, the students will study identification of special operations components, identification of the interrelationships between each discipline and then demonstrate how the manager balances the influences of diverse components, managing all related disciplines under the same programmatic procedures and balancing the “spider web” with an understanding of all the unique internal and external demands and influences.

The course uses lessons learned on how to identify the needs and develop, implement and sustain a Hazardous Materials/Special Operations Program. Students will learn to ensure the program meets the needs of the community and the current standard of care. Included in the course materials are historical examples, current models, and best practices for community risk-based special response capability development and sustainment. This course is not an operational incident management course.

Students selected for this course include Hazardous Materials/Special Operations Teams coordinators, managers, and personnel aspiring to become coordinators and managers; personnel responsible for training, equipping and sustaining specialized response resources; and personnel responsible for the supervision or leadership of a hazardous materials or special operations team or company.

While this course is included in a discussion of the Hazardous Materials curriculum, the course is not centered on hazardous materials. All aspects of a special operations program — technical rescue, foam, bikes, etc. — are addressed.

If you have never taken the opportunity to attend a class at the National Fire Academy, you owe it to yourself to attend at least once. Less than two percent of all of the firefighters in the entire country have ever attended a class there. Unlike a state weekend, you will be in class with firefighters from all over the country and maybe the world. You will learn as much, if not more, outside of class networking with your fellow students as you will in class with the instructors. Don’t wait. Apply today!

Mark Schmitt is Captain/Hazmat Specialist for the Greensboro Fire Department in Greensboro, N.C., and a veteran of over 20 years in the fire service. The majority of his career has been spent in special operations. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program and holds a Master of Public Administration in Emergency Management. Schmitt has taught numerous hazardous materials courses for the Greensboro Fire Department, local community colleges and the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal in addition to serving on several hazardous materials related committees at the local and state level.

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