Have you “PRIMED” Your First Responders?

By Grant Coffey


Regardless of your occupational specialty – environmental professional, facility safety expert, military or first responder – YOU’VE BEEN THERE.  Yeah, you’ve been at that incident where the hair stood up on the back of your neck.  The one where you thanked fate it was just a “close call” and nothing more.  What are you doing within your organization to learn from these incidents?  How are you equipping your personnel with critical tools to respond more effectively and safely?  More critically, what training are you giving them to utilize the most important tool –their BRAIN?

Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) emergencies can be huge, overwhelming, complicated and full of unknowns.  Since we can’t have a specific SOP for every event, it’s common for the responder to regress under stress.  In many cases, that means retreating from what we know best.  Often, this yields disorganized, unsuccessful outcomes.  Same bad habits –same failed results.  Experience is critical, but it must adapt to tested street truths.

It is critical that we not only learn from our past incidents, but from each other. FLIR Systems recently introduced FLIR PRIMED – a one-stop resource for response professionals.  FLIR PRIMED strives to deliver informative and useable information in the form of a video-series that includes techniques, tools, and checklists based on best practices.  What does PRIMED stand for?

  • Prepare – Much of the battle is fought before you arrive on the scene of an emergency. Are you training your personnel for success? Use tested truth and then practice, review, modify and do it again…until it becomes a HABIT.
  • Recognize –All events have certain patterns. Early recognition of the “Big Picture” is acritical step. Utilizing available systems and tools helps us to avoid command “vapor lock” or overload confusion.
  • Input –Some decisions can be made initially, but the use of field checklists can assist in the orderly and thorough analysis of available on-scene “Cues and Clues.” You might not be able to identify a specific threat, but thegoal should be tosee it within a family of possibilities and rule out what it’s not.  I call the later “RIO” orRule it Out.
  • Monitor – Monitors are often used as presumptive tools. They should be seen as part of the total picture. They are important, but your brain is the best tool.
  • Experience –Experience is a double-edged sword. If it’s not nurtured and updated by improved response effectiveness, it can reinforce bad habits that lock us into a pattern of mistakes. Decision –Successful decision-making requires good information and competent use of available tools and equipment.  But make no mistake; decisions are ultimately made by humans -not equipment or procedures.

A CBRNE event can overwhelm the response equation.  Although the chemistry and physics of such events are relatively unchanging and predictable, the human aspect isn’t.  However, predictable patterns or outcomes still exist in emergencies.  If we couple this with a keen sense of our personnel, we can utilize those markers to improve response effectiveness.  Here are some “next step” ideas you can implement to improve your safety and effectiveness during a Hazmat or CBRNE response:

  • Instill a “Learning Attitude” with those personnel likely be the first to respond. Make it a daily event.  Learn tips from others or through resources like FLIR PRIMED.
  • Utilize your Hazmat Technicians to develop and deliver lessons, strengthening the bond of trust between your experts and the first responders. Because CBRNE events are atypical and infrequent, training must take place more often.  It should also highlight the mastery of concepts like, “turn it on and put it on.”  Personal Radiation Detection (PRD) equipment is vital at a rad scene.  Equip your first responders with good decision-making tools and education.
  • Integrate with allied agencies NOW, not later. Effective coordination between multiple agencies at CBRNE incidents is critical, but often overlooked and can be the Achilles heel.
  • Assemble your own field gu ides and checklists. These tools can help the IC avoid overload and assist them with important decision points. Don’t have any?  Start with some FLIR PRIMED downloads and modify them as needed.
  • Keep it simple! Use easily-remembered mantras like: “The 3 Cs” –Chemical, Container, Context. If you don’t, they won’t use them when pressured.  The threat is there.  Good tools are available.  One of them is FLIR PRIMED.  The video series delivers cutting-edge education and decision skills you can use right now.  Each episode concludes with a downloadable field guide or checklist.  Check it out today a flir.com/primed.


About the Author

Grant Coffey is a retired Portland Fire & Rescue Hazmat Team Coordinator, College Fire Science Instructor, and  CBRNE expert of nearly 40 years. He trains Fire, Police, Military and industry Hazmat Responders. He has NFPA certifications for Radiation Specialist and is a State of Oregon Radiation Safety Officer. He is also a Hazmat Specialist and Incident Safety officer and has experience in Emergency Manage ment and various other CBRNE Hazmat disciplines.

Canadian TSB rules on Train Derailment in Northern Ontario

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada recently issued a report on its findings related to the 2015 derailment of a train in 2015.  In its report, it ruled that a missed defect in an improperly repaired rail led to a 2015 freight train derailment in northern Ontario that caused numerous cars carrying crude oil to catch fire and crash into a local river system, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Thursday.

As a result of its investigation into the incident, the board recommended Transport Canada consistently collect data on general rail surface conditions — and not just previously recorded defects — to better focus its track inspections and help predict future rail failures.

“Track defect information is required to be reported to Transport Canada, while rail surface condition information is not consistently provided and rarely requested by the regulator,” said TSB chair Kathy Fox.

Gogama train derailment

“By integrating rail surface condition data, the planning process may more clearly identify areas of potential track deterioration and the targeted track inspections can be better focused to reduce risk in the rail transportation system.”

Thirty-nine CN Rail cars went off the tracks near Gogama, Ont., in March 2015, while the train was travelling east at 69 kilometres an hour, less than the speed limit. As a result, 2.6 million litres of oil were released, igniting an explosion that destroyed a steel rail bridge, the TSB said.

“This was the third significant derailment involving a CN freight train in a three-week span in early 2015 … in northern Ontario,” Fox said, noting that Transport Canada had not inspected that area of track since 2012.

There were no injuries reported, but residents of the nearby Mattagami First Nation were advised to stay indoors during the cleanup due to possible smoke inhalation and told not to consume water from the community source.

The TSB said the derailment occurred after a recently repaired rail within a joint broke under the train.

Rob Johnston, manager of the TSB’s central region rail operations, said a track maintenance employee repaired the broken rail three days before the derailment.

But during the repair, he missed an internal defect called a vertical split head, which was present, but not visible to the naked eye, Johnston said.

The crack could have been detected with what’s known as a dye penetrant test, Johnston said, but that was not performed even though it was required by CN standards.

“While aware of the test, the employee had never performed one or seen one before,” he said. “CN’s training did not highlight the importance of the test and did not provide opportunities for practical, hands-on training.”

Given the botched rail repair, the TSB’s report notes that a “slow order” should have been applied to reduce the speed of the train on that section of the track, but none was issued.

Going forward, the TSB called on Transport Canada to gather data from railways on rail conditions — such as localized surface collapse — that can help identify areas of potential track deterioration.

Fox said Transport Canada considers various factors to identify areas of concern, most of which are events that have already occurred — such as the number of accidents, broken rails or track defects that required repair under track safety rules.

CN said it has taken action to increase safety measures following the 2015 derailments, from improving training for all track workers to implementing stronger engineering standards for its rail repairs and inspections.

“We have expanded our use of technology to analyse, monitor and inspect track across the CN network. We continue to invest to maintain, improve and protect our infrastructure,” CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said Thursday.

“This was a very unfortunate incident, the result of a broken rail, and we apologize to the residents of Gogama and the Mattagami First Nation for the impacts to their community.”

Hazmat Suits Market Trends to 2022

The Hazmat Suits Market research report, prepared by 360 Market Updates, provides an in-depth study on the current state of the Hazmat Suits Industry.

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