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Training and Education Command

United States Marine Corps
Depot firefighters suit up for HAZMAT training

By Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski | | April 30, 2004

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- To the untrained eye, it may have looked like something out of a science-fiction movie. But in reality, Depot firefighters donned their blue suits and oxygen tanks to participate in Hazardous Materials training at the Parris Island Fire Department Monday and Tuesday.

As part of their rigorous schedule of annual training, the firefighters went through a day of classroom refreshers and HAZMAT simulations to ensure they are ready to handle any situation.

"Every year, firefighters aboard the Depot go through a whole day of HAZMAT exercises and simulations," said Tim Daly, instructor with the University of Maryland School of Fire and Rescue. "The first half of the day is classroom-type activities, and then they actually go out and do practice drills in the suits. A lot of money is invested in this equipment so it's important for them to know how to use it correctly and safely."

One of the simulated scenarios was an overturned canister reported to possibly contain hazardous materials.

"After the incident was called in, we had a couple firefighters get into the safety suits and take their equipment out to the site," said Daly. "They set up a quarantine area and then worked to seal the canister."

After handling hazardous materials, the firefighters must then go through a decontamination process.

"To make sure the firefighters don't come into contact with any hazardous residue that may be present on their suits, they go through decontamination," Daly said. "An area is set up where they go through a series of water sprinklers and are scrubbed with brushes by other firefighters."

One of the most important things done after the suit is washed is for the firefighter to get a blood pressure reading.

"They will get a reading before and after," Daly said. "This is to see the effects on their stress levels before and after they perform in a situation with hazardous materials. We want to try to get them used to these situations so their levels stay the same, before and after a call. So when something real comes up, it will be no sweat to them ... it will come second nature and they will have nothing to worry about."

These types of simulations are a welcome addition to the daily training the Depot firefighters go through.

"It's very important to keep up on training like this," said Capt. Ralph Stanley, PIFD lead firefighter. "There are constant changes in equipment and methods of doing things, so it's nice to be on top of things like this."

In addition to the yearly course, the Depot firefighters hold regular HAZMAT training two hours each month.

"We like to get in training among ourselves to make sure we all know each other's job," said Stanley. "That way, if something comes up and one of us can't make it for any reason, that firefighter's job will be covered."

Stanley also believes the training is good to know because of possible terrorism targets on Parris Island.

"Our main mission on Parris Island is to protect the recruits, civilian workers, and [family members]," he said. "So this is something else we have in our arsenal if the need arises. We want to keep up on this training - nobody wants to be caught in any situation unprepared."

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