The ability to predict, recognise and identify the presence of potentially hazardous levels of ionising radiation in even the most "routine" of locations is a crucial skill when responding to HazMat or CBRNe incidents.
Portable hand-held radiological survey instruments provide first responders and radiation safety personnel with the means to accurately and consistently measure external or ambient ionising radiation fields in a diverse range of environments.
Developing, maintaining and testing the effectiveness of emergency preparedness and response (EPR) is a vital means of safeguarding personnel, the public and the environment in the event of a radiological incident.
While regulatory controls, standardised procedures and radiation safety audits are key to minimising the likelihood of radiological accidents, there is always the risk of an unforeseen event or some form of illicit activity that may have serious radiological consequences.
Radiological incidents where there is the potential for the release of ionising radiation can occur in a wide variety of scenarios - be it a fire in an industrial facility, a transportation accident that involves radioactive materials or the deliberate use of a radiological dispersal device (RDD).
Any accident or incident that involves a radiological hazard can place significant operational demands on first response teams as well as placing those personnel at risk of exposure to potentially dangerous levels of ionising radiation.
Radioactive materials have a wide variety of applications within the fields of medicine, power generation, manufacturing and the military - and just as with any other product, there are times when these materials may need to be moved from one location to another.
In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there are around three million shipments of radioactive materials to, from or within the US every year.In the UK meanwhile, Public Health England (PHE) has reported that somewhere in the region of half a million packages containing radioactive materials are transported to, from or within the UK annually.
Emergency first responders face the possibility of encountering radioactive materials in even the most seemingly routine of scenarios.
It might be in the course of containing an industrial fire, or attending a road transport accident or responding to an incident within a specialist medical facility.
The monitoring of gamma radiation is crucial for preserving human life and maintaining environmental safety, whether it is in the context of military peacekeeping activities, border control, law enforcement, first response or as part of routine surveillance within medical or industrial facilities.
When we contemplate the possibility of responding to a serious incident involving ionizing radiation it can be hard not to summon up images of catastrophic events such as Fukushima or Chernobyl.
In reality however, emergencies that involve ionizing radiation can take a variety of forms that can vary widely in their severity.
When we think about all of the hazardous materials that a first responder might potentially expect to come into contact with, it is the things that can't be sensed that can often be the hardest to control.
And when an incident is unfolding inside a confined space, even the most subtle of changes in the atmosphere have the potential to be not just harmful but life threatening.
Specialist HazMat training exercises can provide vital learning opportunities for first responders by enabling them to put into practice the knowledge and skills they will rely on when tackling hazardous materials incidents.
When there is the chance to conduct these HazMat training scenarios in a real-life setting, instructors can also offer trainees the added advantage of being able to experience what would normally be a "staged" exercise in as realistic a context as possible.