For all of the Hazmat folks out there, Do you have any equipment or prefered method for determining an unknown product?  The team I am attached to is currently looking at updating, purchasing new,or eliminating equipment used in identification. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Well we use all of the following ALOHA, CAMEO, MARPLOT and there is a new free downloadable program from Wiser. You can have it on your smartphone.
We also use the same programs. WISER was just added and we are still getting to know it.
For determining an unknown product (sample) we use the Smith's ID Machine.
For gases and vapors, we use a combination of a Multirae Plus 4-gas monitor/PID, a HazmatCad Plus, Smart Tickets, the Drager colorimetric tube system, the Drager CMS chip system, and military WMD detection equipment including Mark 156 kits and M8/M9 paper. We also use a Ludlum radiation detector and GammaRae II gamma detectors as well as dosimeters for unknowns and if we suspect radiation.

We eliminated the military Mark 3 kits - they are useless.

For sampling and evidence collection, we use an Evidex X-Kit.

For further product determination of liquids and solids, we use a HazCat kit.

We're working on the purchase of a spectroscope.
We are currently debating the future of the colormetric and CMS chips. The MiniRae PID covers most of the known chenicals our chips and tubes covered. The HazCat kit was taken out of service years ago when we purchased an FTIR (HazMatID) from Smiths Detection. I do miss having the HazCat for unknowns.
I'm not familiar with the Mark 3 kits. What do they do?
The Mark 3 kits are essentially a military miniature version of the Drager/MSA colorimetric tube system, but with a very limited ability to detect or measure chemicals other than the most common military WMDs. The tubes are tiny and almost impossible to use while wearing hazmat PPE.

I'd seriously question replacing colorimetric tubes and CMS chips with a PID. The PID is great for telling you "how much" of a chemical is present, but it doesn't tell you what the chemical is. Using colorimetric tubes and CMS chips together with a PID is essentially the poor man's spectrometer - at least for the most common chemicals. Further, the PID won't pick up non-VOC chemicals accurately, if at all. It doesn't work well for non-organics, and it doesn't work at all for viscous liquids or solids that don't sublimate/offgas.

We're keeping our HazCat kit even after the spectrometer arrives for a couple of reasons.

1) The spectrometer can break, like any electronic equipment. Having the HazCat kit keeps a backup in service.

2) The spectrometer isn't the best tool for analyzing some solids. The HazCat kit does a great job of analyzing many common solids.

3) Most importantly, using both a spectrometer and a HazCat kit gives you independent sources of confirmation for the unknown. I personally don't trust a single source for unkown determination - not even the shipping papers.
I have seen "quick" cards for innitial information called "Smart Ticket" Gogle them. Specific ID of a true unknown requires information from many sources and multiple insterments. I like to use multiple types of technology. I also recomend some simple field tests such as will the substance mix with water, float or sink and so on. I do not like the idea of elminating colormetrics they'r cheap and have very few use restrictions. Try checking out Waste Water Chem Strips and Spill Clasifiers they can save a lot of time. Smiths IR detection system offers a reach back option with their monitors which can be very helpful.
Good Luck.
Thanks for the info everyone. Although we do not come across many unknowns we struggle in training. Most of our members become to dependent on one form of technology and fail to utilize all tools at our disposal. Sometimes the simplest forms of chemical ID work the best. Your comments will help to open up discussion in our department and hopefully create a better potocol for the unknown.
Emergency Response Intervention Cards (for UN and ADR classificated materials)

draeger miniwarn for gases (CO2, CO, O2, C9H20)
draeger accuro for detecting unknown material
Marc, When you ask about unknown identification, are you referring to the types of things found with "unknown chemical spills" or WMD related things, like anthrax, sarin, etc.?

One thing that has not been mentioned on this post is the HazCat system for detecting unknowns. Here's the links:

Hazcat Field Test Kit for Unknowns:

FEMA Hazcat WMD Field Kit Info:

The reason I like this system and have been using it for over 20 years is the simple follow the steps process, that has always worked for me, and rather quickly at that... I personally love the system, and have had the chance to meet the guy who invented it.

To be honest, what you and your entire team need to do before making any decisions about purchasing monitoring gear or systems to determine unknowns is to apply and attend the Homeland Security COBRA training program in Anniston, Alabama.

Have fun! I know I did!

Our team would generally deal with unknown chemicals. So far the only unknowns we have encountered are the ones people bring to the station. Usually, something found in an old farmhouse property. The CBRNE we can deal with, but we would call in the regional military response to assist us. Their resources are much deeper than ours.
As for the HazCat, that used to be in our inventory and was removed several years ago. Not entirely sure why.
There are a lot of other systems that have come and gone, but the Hazcat system has always been the most reliable. How about the COBRA training? Have you done this yet? or the Las Vegas DOE Radiation training? or the New Mexico Bomb School? etc. Lots of free stuff out there for firefighters if you know where to look and what questions to ask. It's kind of like applying to the National Fire Academy and not checking the box that says you are a training officer to enable getting into a class...


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