"Engine 2, respond to a reported MVA involving hazardous materials." How would you handle this incident?

This example illustrates what an unsecured paint load can look like in a routine traffic incident.

While this particular incident appears to be both humorous and harmless, one need only substitute the paint for a “common household” corrosive, caustic chemical or other poisonous product.

Have you ever discussed this in training or actually respond to an incident involving spilled hazardous materials inside a passenger vehicle?

So... put yourself as first on scene. How would you handle this incident? 


A couple of five-gallon buckets of paint on the rear seat and a small accident... It was only a fender-bender, but betcha next time they will put the paint in the trunk... 
When the ambulance arrived the male driver wouldn't let the female paramedic 
get out because she was laughing so hard -- He didn't think it was "professional."

Views: 449


Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I'd probably react the same way the paramedic did. After determining that the substance is harmless and water-soluble I'd say a washdown of the "victims" would be in order. Pictures are worth a thousand words.
Don't touch the people involved or let them touch you.

READ THE LABEL on the container. If it's not hazardous and water soluble, just wash it off with a hoseline. No need to set up formal decon.

If it's toxic, corrosive, or anything similar that will continue to hurt the people, get them to strip their outer clothing off and hose them down with a hoseline.

Unless you know that the chemical is water-reactive, wash them down with a hoseline...I think I'm seeing a theme here.
A friend of mine wrote this, and in my opinion, does an exceptional job discussing this incident specifically, and how to deal with more complex incidents involving actual hazardous materials... Sharing this with you provides additional insight that reinforces what Chief Waller shared.


This response is from a very competent and seasoned Hazmat Captain with the Ventura County Fire Department, CA:

Actually all it needs to be is oil based paint instead of water based and it creates problems. We had a similar incident a few years ago. One patient with critical injuries (you could see every laceration as it made the white paint pink). The ambulance company talked the Engine Company out of doing any decon because they wanted rapid transport. They cut the clothes away but the patient was transported with the clothes under him, and still covered in paint. By the time they arrived at the hospital the driver and personnel in the back were complaining of headache, nausea, and pretty sever dizziness. No decon was performed at the hospital so we ended up with the same problem inside the ER. Also we all know how hard paint removal is. It took some work to clean up the ambulance and ER.

Patient care became a real problem even after the clothing was removed in the ER. It is very difficult to treat a person covered in a thick, and now drying, coat of oil based paint. ER staff attempted to clean the patient with liquid hand soap, which was too slow and did not remove much of the paint. Fortunately one of the hospital plant/facility operations persons happen to be in the ER. He knew that the orange based abrasive hand cleaner worked well on removing paint, and also knew that the abrasiveness would be a problem on the patients skin. He quickly mixed container of orange cleaner with a container of soft liquid hand soap. They say this worked very well and that the patient was paint free within a few minutes. Not sure this is the recommended way but it worked.

Scott Quirarte, Fire Captain
Ventura County Fire Department
Hazardous Incident Response Team
I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't laugh as well.

Check the labels, etc and hose them down.
Would do scene size-up , check for hazards (power lines,other fluid leaks.etc) find out and make sure it is paint and type of paint , do patient assesments and clean up with hose line and or run off containment if needed. And after back in quarters lmao
Check the label on the container and get the necessary info, if it is safe with water we wash it down with a trash line or booster line so EMS can transport.

Its if the substance is actually a chemical that needs to be contained is where the problem lies...Than you would have to set up a containment pool for the patients to stand in to be rinsed off with water and soap, than another pool for final rinse before EMS can even touch them. When the patients are gone you need to dispose of the tainted water, which will be the owners expense, so we contact EPA or other agency to have the chemical removed safely.

The vehicle will have to be decontaminated as well, I didnt see if anyone noted that above, I only saw patient decon. What about the inside of the car?? You would have to clean that too, probably call the Haz-Mat Team for that, warden off the area according to ERG evac chart (If applicable) and set up absorbant booms if there is runnoff from vehicle or set up dams, and await the team. It all depends on the type of haz-mat spilled and the properties of said haz-mat. Interesting scenario, because now as a Haz-Mat Technician I am thinking to myself, "How the hell would you clean the interior of that car if it was a toxic chemical? Or caustic, or other methyl-ethyl-badstuff?"

Excellent scenario, thanks for sharing.
this reminds me of a firefighter I knew... he was standing in the front doorway of a burned out town house and the truckies drupped a five gallon bucket of white paint from the second floor bedroom and the paint bounced back (not the bucket) and coverd him from head to toe. We Laughed as professionally as we possibly could..... saying "man he got what he wanted.... from probie firefighter to chief in one swift move!":-)

In this job, if you don't laugh about a few calls... you may want to call EAP.
Sometimes it's had to be professional, but we suck it up and do the job, besides we can laugh our arsses off back at the station.
This one would be very easy not to take serious, it's just paint right? I understand no decon before transportation, but leaving clothes with victim was 1 mistake, at least you would have gotten rid of 90% of the product. I don't understand no decon at hospital, after the ambulance crew had issues, this is a huge mistake(2) and may cause the ER to shutdown, especially since most all ER's have a procedure in place to handle this.
So...what country did this accident occur in?

Also, while it may be water-based paint, it could still be a HAZMAT. For instance it may be a marine pollutant, so while you can wash off the vehicle occupants with a hose line, you may still need to dam and dike the runoff so it doesn't make it's way into the local waterways.

If you live in the Chesapeake Bay area you know sensitive it is to contaminated runoff, and imagine being responsible for a large fish die-off because of the paint in the runoff from a minor MVA.

I say if it is water-based, hose the occupants off, Dam & Dike the runoff and call an environment clean-up company to take care of the paint runoff.

If a scene washdown is required, you are going to have to contain the runoff. Even water based paint will get you in trouble with the EPA, county pollution control district, storm water dept. and a host of others.
Close the doors on the blue car with the white interior.
Open the rear hatch.
Put the pail and anything else associated with the paint into the hatch. They shouldn't be standing there like statues, dripping onto the ground.
Have them stand on something close to the hatch and have them remove whatever they can, down to where they feel comfy. Toss it in.
Someone has to have some water.
A passerby must have a purse/pocketbook/handbag with some makeup product inside that would help.
Confine the spill and its remnants.
good one lol

Reply to Discussion


FireRescue Magazine

Find Members Fast

Or Name, Dept, Keyword
Invite Your Friends
Not a Member? Join Now

© 2021   Created by Firefighter Nation WebChief.   Powered by

Badges  |  Contact Firefighter Nation  |  Terms of Service