CBRN / HazMat Training Blog

How to conduct safe CWA training for incidents in civilian areas

Written by Steven Pike on 03 May 2018

One of the primary goals of chemical warfare agent (CWA) training is the ability to be able to ensure operational readiness in the event of a terrorist related threat or deliberate act of aggression.

The challenge though is to provide realistic, hands-on training opportunities that offer the highest degree of authenticity for the trainees while at the same time preventing any risk to the general public, to the environment or to the participants themselves.

So what options exist that enable instructors to create realistic CWA training scenarios which safely and accurately reflect the conditions of incidents in civilian locations?


What are the challenges of decontamination of chemical warfare agents?

Written by Steven Pike on 27 Apr 2018

The environmental impact of incidents involving Chemical Warfare Agents (CWAs) can be long-lasting and requires meticulous and expert decontamination by chemical operations specialists.

The clean-up process also takes considerable time, as has been evidenced in the case of the Novichok nerve agent attack in Salisbury, UK in March 2018.

Nearly two months after the incident, a total of nine key sites connected to the attack remain under guard behind high-security barriers while they await specialist decontamination.


The threat of cyber attacks on industrial HazMat safety

Written by Steven Pike on 25 Apr 2018

Major industrial hazardous material (HazMat) incidents are thankfully rare. 

However, with the many thousands of highly toxic chemicals currently in commercial use worldwide, there is the ever-present risk of release - whether it be due to an accident, or as the result of an intentional act of aggression.


How to provide realistic HazMat training for the detection of CWAs

Written by Steven Pike on 17 Apr 2018

Chemical warfare agents (CWAs) are often imperceptible to the senses, they can be extremely fast acting and they are highly toxic in even the smallest of quantities, with the potential to cause mass casualties.

The effects can be immediate or delayed, depending upon the type of agent used, the method and duration of the exposure and the concentration of the chemical agent.


The role of personal protective equipment in realistic hazmat training

Written by Steven Pike on 19 Feb 2018

In recent blog posts we’ve discussed the significance of providing realistic training opportunities for military crews and first responders who are tasked with emergency hazmat response.

Alongside the importance for hands-on training using true-to-life simulator detectors, it is also vital for trainees to experience the wearing of their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in HazMat training scenarios if the full physiological effect of the scenario is to be experienced.

Personal protective equipment provides first responders with protection from potentially serious, and in some cases life-threatening, exposure to harmful chemical, biological or radiological hazards.


An overview of safety certification for army hazmat training

Written by Steven Pike on 13 Feb 2018

As part of its national defense mission, the US military makes use of a wide range of hazardous substances which can include petroleum products, chemicals, explosives and solvents - all of which can pose a physical risk if handled improperly.

In this blog post we explore the process by which substances are classified as hazardous, the role of army hazmat training in preparing personnel for the safe transport of hazmat materials and the ways in which hands-on scenarios can enhance theoretical understanding of hazmat safety.


Why realistic scenarios are vital for effective hazmat safety training

Written by Steven Pike on 05 Feb 2018

From transport companies to military bases, industrial units and medical facilities, the handling of hazardous materials (HazMat) requires strict regulatory compliance to ensure there is no risk to public safety.

Crucially too, effective response to any hazardous substance release relies on the expertise and training of highly trained hazmat response teams, whether they be first responders or military crews.

Materials that are classed as hazardous are wide-ranging - including in-organic chemicals (such as chlorine, ammonia and hydrogen fluoride;) toxic gases that can be inhaled (such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen, argon, oxygen or hydrogen;) explosives; flammable liquids and solids; organic peroxides; toxic, infectious and corrosive substances and radioactive materials.


The environmental impact of CBRNe & HazMat training scenarios

Written by Steven Pike on 04 Jan 2018

The ability to be able to respond to any emergency CBRNe or HazMat situation, whether it be an accidental event or a deliberate act of aggression, is a vital necessity for military personnel and first response teams.

A civilian HazMat incident that occurs during the transport of hazardous materials by road, air, rail or ship is just one example of a scenario where specialist HazMat safety expertise will be required.

While hazardous materials regulations are in place to avoid and mitigate the impact of accidental spillage, any incident that involves a hazardous substance has the potential to cause environmental harm and will require a fast and emphatic response from trained emergency crews.

Likewise too, military teams need to be trained and equipped to handle any CBRNe incident such as the release, deliberate or otherwise, of a hazardous material or chemical warfare agent (CWA).

The US military for example uses a wide variety of materials to aid its national defense mission - from petroleum products and solvents to chemicals and explosives  - and all of which can pose a hazard if improperly handled.

It is essential that military personnel, both uniformed and civilian, are trained in the safe handling, storage, transport and disposal of hazardous materials and that they are instructed on the potential dangers that these hazardous substances can present both to individuals and the environment.


Innovative new technology for realistic chemical HazMat training

Written by Steven Pike on 20 Dec 2017

With the increase in intensive industry and manufacturing, the fire service and first responders are increasingly being called upon to handle chemical HazMat situations where there is risk of exposure to a wide range of hazardous substances.

Emergency response crews face two basic challenges when confronted with potentially dangerous industrial chemical incidents - they need to know how to operate their life-saving detection equipment and they need to use that equipment to ascertain that the air is suitable for normal unprotected breathing and safe from contaminants or represents an explosive atmosphere.

The complex issue of emergency preparedness has been recently highlighted by the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB), in their offering of a stark warning to the US chemical industry in the wake of the Arkema chemical fires in Crosby, Texas.


How offsite release exercises can maximise HazMat safety training

Written by Steven Pike on 10 Nov 2017

Providing first responders and senior management with access to high quality, realistic and regular HazMat safety training opportunities is crucial in ensuring that they are thoroughly equipped to handle any real-world response, whatever the context.

The vital importance of wide-area HazMat emergency preparedness was brought into sharp focus in two recent toxic chemical incidents on both sides of the Atlantic in August 2017.

On August 31 in the US town of Crosby, Texas, floodwaters caused by tropical storm Harvey led to a power shutdown at a chemical plant, which resulted in a series of small explosions and the release of what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) described as “a hazardous smoke plume.”

A 1.5 mile exclusion zone was placed around the plant, and while evacuation of residents immediately outside the exclusion zone was not mandatory, the Texas commission on environmental quality urged local residents to stay inside, keep windows and doors closed and to limit physical activity.

Meanwhile on the South Coast of the UK, an unidentified chemical plume swept over the seaside area of Beachy Head over the August Bank Holiday weekend, resulting in more than 150 beachgoers requiring hospital treatment for symptoms ranging from streaming eyes and burning throats to vomiting and respiratory problems.

Toxic plumes have the potential to drift significant distances, as was evidenced in January 2013, when a foul-smelling gas cloud that originated in Rouen, France, prompted thousands of calls to the emergency services all across England’s South Coast and as far north as South-East London.

Fortunately these types of wide-area public emergency HazMat incidents are fairly rare. But they do highlight the crucial importance for first response teams and management to have hands-on training to handle unexpected chemical hazard events with speed, confidence and efficiency.