This drill was done this year by all the members of my department as well as inviting mutual aid departments to participate. I wrote the drill based on something that really happened to another agency. Even though the below photos were taken on the drill, this incident actually occurred and had some interesting outcomes that I don't want to give away yet but will after we get enough comments as to how would you mitigate this incident. Here goes...

You've been dispatched on a reported vehicle accident involving a stake side truck verses a passenger car. The driver of the passenger car was not injured and had walked away from the scene because of a fire that had started in the back of the stake side truck. When you arrive on scene, this is what you see...

You grab a pair of binoculars to get a close up view of the placards on the truck. Here's what you see:

A bystander that had witnessed the accident walks up to you and hands you this empty bag that had fallen out of the truck during the accident.

Weather: 5-10 mph West Wind blowing the smoke toward a trailer park of senior citizens, many non-ambulatory if they have to get out in a hurry.

Resources: Your on your own for the first 15 minutes of the call when your second in arrives.

Law Enforcement: Enroute and wants to know if you want to shut down any of the roads or evacuate.

And now, the rest of the story...

What is critical about this particular call was the fact that the 55 gallon drums contained zinc phosphide. By itself, no problemo... add water and you get a synergistic effect and an off gassing of product that is highly toxic and corrosive. Zinc phosphide is common around grain silos and other places where rats and mice need to be controlled to protect food stuff. Keep in mind how this stuff works when used commercially. Kind of like a gas chamber for rats... Here's the other problem with the stuff, seems that when you add water, you get an exothermic reaction (1+1=uh oh...) and there is flame production as a result coupled with the generation of toxic gases.

So if you were thinking about putting a hose line on the burning 55 gallon drums, think again. Here's the rule about using water. Don't. I'm not saying that there are not any situations where you may have to use water but it should not be your first line of defense. A little used piece of equipment that every fire engine carries is your dry chemical extinguisher. Using the dry chemical extinguisher as the first line of defense minimizes unnecessary cleanup and extension of the hazards involved.

The first priority is life safety for any incident. For this particular one, you have to have confidence in your turnout gear to safely get you to the victim, perform a rescue and then get out, and fast. Generalized decon procedures using a booster line will ensure that you can get out of your turnouts quickly enough, and post decon showering will ensure that you have minimized potential exposure but the most important factor here is that you got the victims out of the toxic cloud, and gave them a chance to survive the chemical insult.

So lets get back to the step by step, how to run a hazmat call pictorial narrative...

You have the first arriving engine company show up on scene, spotting the apparatus uphill, upwind, upstream, up, up, up... don't forget about local weather conditions. Here in Santa Barbara around 17:00 PM the winds switch from an on shore to an off shore wind which means that the wind changes direction 180˚. Tell me that this wouldn't ruin your day. Remote weather monitoring is a must, specially when you are staging equipment and resources that are difficult to move quickly.

I share this photo to enforce the need for people to talk and communicate clearly what the tactics and strategies are for resolving the incident. This is also important because one of your crew members might have seen something that you didn't. Communications are imperative for survival.

The use of monitors is important sometimes but can cause major delays when it comes to performing a rescue. The longer the victim is exposed to hazardous materials, the less likely the person is going to survive. What needs to happen quickly is to make the decision whether or not to perform a rescue. It's your call but as mentioned above, you can save several lives adhering to basic radiological response tactics that include time, distance and shielding. Do all three and you limit your exposure potential.

Sending a team into both recon and do a quick grab and run for this particular incident was the right thing to do. The hazards involved were primarily exposure to toxic gases and smoke. Your PPE and SCBA protect you from this with one key exception... dermal exposure.

When something burns, you get what is called products of decompostition which contains aldehydes, ketones and organic vapors and mists. Remember the routes of exposure from Toxicology 101... you can inhale it, have it absorb through your skin, you can ingest it and in some cases where there is a puncture injury you can have it injected into your body. These firefighters and victim require immediate decon, post-gross decon soap and tepid water showers (too cold = hypothermia / too hot = opening up pores and increasing exposure potential).

Firefighters can be seen here performing a quick rescue, and note the fire extinguisher sitting next to the vehicle. The crews were given extra points remembering to take a dry chem to deal with the fire. We didn't actually make them use the extinguisher but verbally, they reported that they had knocked down the fire and were performing a victim rescue.

Once the victims have been taken to a safe staging area, immediate EMS can start to occur. Remember that ABC's are really important and finding a way to reduce exposure quickly is imperative. You can accomplish this with at least carrying and providing for patients NIOSH-Approved N95 Disposable Particulate Respirators. Every engine company should carry a couple of boxes of these for the public as well for themselves. Click here for a listing of approved NIOSH manufacturers.

Patient care is easy to remember when it comes to dealing with a contaminated victim...

A - Airway
B - Breathing
C - Circulation / C-Spine Precautions
D - Decon
F - Forensics / Not everyone survives... think morgues...
G - Go To The
H - Hospital for more definitive care...

Don't forget that the DOT Emergency Response Guide is designed for highway incidents only... NOT fixed facility incidents. Look for some future discussions or on the Hazmat WMD Responder site for more definitive information on this in the future.

Conclusion: You might kind of get the hint that I am passionate about this topic. Without sharing the department or the name of the Captain that I spoke with, I wanted to share what really happened on this call...

The engine company that responded to reported 55 gallon drums smoking in the back of a semitrailer also happened to be the hazmat team. They responded to the incident in a typical Type I engine with four firefighters. Using the ERG... the engine company made the decision to extinguish the visible flames with a 1-1/2" hose line with a TFT nozzle. As soon as the water was applied to the burning material, a violent exothermic reaction occurred, driving the firefighters out of the semitrailer. The decision was made to make entry into the trailer again but with the goal of removing the wood pallet and the four drums sitting on top. Once the drums were removed, the hose line was again extended and water sprayed onto this material (zinc phosphide).

Eventually, the decision was reached to use dry chem, which immediately both extinguished the fire as well as provide a sealing layer of dry chemical powder that limited vapor production.

There wasn't anything remarkable that happened after the call but something did happen a day later...

One of the firefighters who was downwind of the smoke and flames that were generated with the application of water left for home the next morning, headed for the Colorado River with his family to enjoy each others company, vacationing and having fun. Instead, the firefighter 36-hours after the incident was coughing up bright red blood and was bleeding from a large cyst that had formed in his esophagus. This firefighter was exposed via dermal exposure and it didn't take much... The firefighter survived but it is unknown at this time whether the firefighter suffered any long term problems as a result of this exposure.

If you are not totally sure as to how to handle this call or calls like it, please visit the Hazmat WMD Responders page for more detailed information.

If I can be of assistance with your hazmat team, response, inspections or equipment, don't hesitate to drop me a line.

"It's all about being able to go home in the morning..."

Stay safe, Mike from Santa Barbara

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Wait for the cops get there and send them to the truck judge the danger by how far they make it before going down...............Joking well sorta

According to the glo worm bible(emergency response guidebook) thats some bad stuff
First off call chemtrec orlike agency then get scba and chem suit evac patients call mutuail aid from ambo service for evac of park. And only use Dry chem or sand to control fire.
now wait a minute here... I can't believe that you would send in an officer to be a canary, you'll have a hard time getting them out of one of their many important meetings to prevent crime!

nope, bad news seems like your responding officer kind of got stuck... in traffic... : )

im going to not allow a soul anywere near. start to evacuate anyone down wind hold up my thumb and back up . when i cant see the secine or smoke .ill stage my but, till the haz mat folks get there.
ok , lets see.
1.-set a command post
2.- Evacuate and insolate the area.
3.-Id de material using grena, niosh pocket guide etc, etc,
4.-Saves lives , prepare a emergency decom.
5.-wait for the hazmat unit.
This being my first attempt at creating a scenario, challenging folks to think out the box, taught me that when it is this difficult of a subject, no one really want to put it out there as to how you might handle the incident. The rest of the scenario is presented below now with the last paragraph telling you what really happened.

I would appreciate your comments as to whether or not this is a good medium for teaching this subject matter and if I could change anything to make it better. ms
hey i hope you don't mind me using this drill. i need one for our lepc unit for a live drill this year. i have had some before but sort of running out of ideas. really need something that will get big if nothing is done or it is done wrong. to make this bad is to make it raining
Hi Roy,

This is why I posted the information and in my opinion, is the purpose of the FFN, why reinvent the wheel?

When you do the drill...

Remember, do not prompt your folks to use binoculars and consult the ERG, these are basic skills that require reinforcement. Also they need to remember and think out of the box, with one of the responding firefighters taking a fire extinguisher with them on the initial recon and rescue, give them the change to put water on the product, which as you know know, releases phosgene gas that is both flammable and toxic. adding water will escalate the incident, creating a downwind hazard and will force sheltering in place verses evacuation because toxic gases and smoke, generally speaking, are diffused eventually...

The important thing to look for in this drill is that everyone needs to work together and communicate!

Please let me know how the drill goes, and remember, if it's not fun, it's not considered worthwhile...
Excellent drill Mike! As with any accident scene involving delivery vehicles the first arriving officer should be trained enough to look for the telltale signs of haz-mat, like placards. Every responding vehicle should have binoculars some where, and a ERG as well as other pocket reference material. One of the primary priorities other than life safety, is "Scene Safety". Do a quick look before entering the scene, look for placards or other signs of haz-mat, leaking tanks, power lines on the vehicle or the road nearby, and any other hazards. Think safely, than proceed. Risk a lot to save a lot, risk a little to save a little...if the Patients are already exposed to copious amounts of methylethylbadshit and are not responding to your shouts, than is it worth it to rush in with turnouts only until you know for sure what you are dealing with? Is it worth 2 firefighters lives to recover a body? These are things to think about before making entry. Once you establish the scene to be clear of additional hazards than you can send in the crew with level "D" protection, but until that determination is made I will not put any responders life in jeopardy.

And by the way, (jokingly ofcourse!!) there are more than one way to use PD efficiently at haz-mat scenes, as taught to us by our instructors at the academy(names with held for their safety!!) Their tie will usually turn colors if exposed to a chemical, therefore making it Litmus Paper. The powdered jelly donut held tightly in their hands will advise us as to wind speed and direction, and if they pass out we know where the "Hot" zone will be established!!!!! JUST KIDDING!!!! LMAO

Great drill and topic idea brother, keep them coming!!
Excellent drill Mike. I need to get an ERG book for my home office! Before I read all the way down, I was considering putting water on the fire (bad decision). A great example of having to think outside the box. Stay safe!
Great drill Mike, you for surely had my mind going but thats why I'm a worker and not a white hat but we all need to know this things and we drill a lot on haz-mat too, cant wait to see your next drill:)

I have to agree with everyone on here, awesome drill work up. I am not sure if I would have used turnouts for an emergency rescue, depending on how the people reacted to our (FD and HM1) use of the bullhorn in their direction. I would be thinking of mitigation of whats offgassing at the time and to me it would require a vapor protective suit such as the Level A with SCBA. Thats what I would have my crew don before retrieving them. Again is it going to be a viable rescue or just end up being a recovery instead. Speaking from a tech reference point of view...I would rather take the time to make sure our responders are out of harms way before just sending them in and having something happen. Again, awesome drill Mike

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