CBRN / HazMat Training Blog

How radiation simulators can aid transportation emergency preparedness

Written by Bryan W Sommers - SGM U.S. Army, Ret. on 26-Jan-2021 13:00:00


Building confidence and familiarity with key radiological terminology and instrumentation is a vital aspect of emergency management preparedness.

As part of its commitment to enhancing transportation incident response, the US Department of Energy has developed the Transportation Emergency Preparedness Program (TEPP) which offers a simple, practical and responder-friendly approach to the complex subject of radiation.

While the chance of being exposed to harmful quantities of ionizing radiation in the course of a responder's daily duties is very low, there is still the very real risk of encountering some form of radioactive material when attending the scene of a transportation accident.

What is crucial is that emergency personnel are provided with the key training and technical assistance that they need in order to safely and effectively mitigate the effects of radiation incidents.

Modular Emergency Response Radiological Transportation Training (MERRTT)

One of the core offerings provided under the Department of Energy's TEPP program is Modular Emergency Response Radiological Transportation Training (MERRTT) which provides responders with an introduction to basic radiation concepts through a series of easily digestible modules and hands-on exercises. 

Trainees are guided through a broad range of topics including hazard recognition, the risks and biological effects of radiological contamination, techniques for handling radiologically contaminated victims and the use of survey and dosimetry instruments.  

Another crucial aspect of the training program is the opportunity to take part in practical scenarios that have been modeled on real-life examples of actual transportation incidents.

In a scenario modeled on an accident involving the transportation of spent nuclear fuel, for example, students are able to put into practice the key actions that they will use in initial incident response including communicating with command and control, hazard identification and monitoring for contamination.

Other MERRTT scenarios enable trainees to experience the challenges of accidents that involve the highway shipment of Low Specific Activity (LSA) materials, radiopharmaceuticals and radiography devices. 

Handling of radiological tools

Two key objectives of effective radiological training are to ensure that trainees are able to practice handling their equipment and that they are confident in making sense of the readings that they obtain.  

The challenge for those charged with radiation instruction is to find a way to safely replicate the effects of radiological activity in a way that can be easily and cost-effectively integrated into a routine training environment. 

It is here that the use of simulator-based radiological training tools can provide a powerful way to bridge the training gap, by taking radiological exercises out of the realm of “make-believe” and planting them firmly in the real world.

Through the use of radiological simulators, trainees are able to practice with equipment that replicates the look, feel and functionality of their actual devices - from the components of the user interface to the response speed and the effects of user body shielding.

By replacing live radiation with safe electromagnetic sources it is also possible to create a vast array of radiological training scenarios that can be safely conducted in any location and that are free from all regulatory, environmental and health and safety restrictions.

Providing the opportunity for first responders to experience the effects of ionizing radiation is a key aspect of effective radiological training.

The more life-like that radiological exercises can be, the more effectively trainees will be able to  engage with their training. 

Simulator-based training enables trainees to experience and respond to the complex conditions of a radiological incident just as they will be required to do in a real emergency. 

What is also key is that trainees have the freedom to not only test their understanding of their radiological devices, but to make mistakes (and to learn from them) within a safe learning environment.

Hands-on training has a key role to play in equipping emergency response personnel with the skills that they need to mitigate the effects of radiation incidents. 

If you would like to learn more about how the use of simulator-based training can support your current training programs please get in touch with a member of the Argon team or register to join one of our twice-weekly live product demonstrations.

Live product demonstration

Topics: Radiation Hazard Training

Bryan W Sommers - SGM U.S. Army, Ret.

Written by Bryan W Sommers - SGM U.S. Army, Ret.

Sergeant Major Bryan W Sommers has forged a distinguished career in the fields of CBRNe and HazMat training. He recently retired after twenty-two years service in the US Army, with fourteen years spent operating specifically in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) environments. In 2020 he was appointed as Argon Electronics' North American business development manager.