Members of Edmond’s hazmat team responded to the release of a toxic chemical on a Greyhound-type bus. Some of the victims had already been taken to the hospital. Hot (exclusion), warm (contamination reduction), cold (support) and safety (triage) zones were set up.
Chase Olson, Josh Hillis, Jesse Benne and Lance Breeden worked to secure the bus, make it safe for operations to continue. They also managed site decontamination and handled incident command.
The training scenario was part of the Aug. 7-10 Hazmat Challenge, an annual event on the grounds of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The lab is 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe, N.M., on 36 square miles of U.S. Department of Energy-owned property.
Hazardous materials response teams from New Mexico, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma competed, responding to simulated hazardous materials emergencies including a rail car, a clandestine laboratory, transportation and industrial piping scenarios and a simulated radiological release.
Edmond’s team finished third in the obstacle course, seventh in the technical events and sixth overall, according to official results from the Hazmat Challenge.
It was an excellent accomplishment for a young team experiencing its first competition, said Edmond Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Lenz. The last time the Edmond Fire Department was able to send a team was three years ago due to the city’s budget constraints, Lenz said.
Edmond hazmat team coach Lance Morrison said the bus scenario was not fictional, but a real life situation.
On July 22 in China, 41 people were killed in a fire on a bus traveling on the Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway, according to chinadaily.com. A report released by the State Council found the fire started when 300 kilograms of azobisisoheptonitrile — an extremely flammable white powder — stored in 15 boxes overheated. The 35-seat bus was carrying 47 passengers; only six survived.
“It’s essential for us as training goes,” Morrison said. “It’s not about the winning. It’s about the training.”
Following each scenario, the teams were debriefed, shown where they succeeded and where there was room for improvement, Morrison said. The members take what they learned in Los Alamos and can now apply it here in Edmond, he said.
Benne said hazardous materials work is very physical. The teams had 30 minutes for each scenario followed by a 30-minute break. The information on what they did right and what they needed to work on was helpful, Benne said.
“It was very worthwhile,” he said of the event.
In 1996, the Los Alamos National Laboratory began the event as a way to hone the skills of its own hazmat team members. The competition offered an invaluable training opportunity for Edmond’s hazardous materials response team, Lenz said.
In addition to improving their skills, which gives them more confidence, the training takes them away from their families, Lenz said. An Edmond firefighter spends an average of 20 hours a month training, Lenz said. The amount of hazardous materials transported via Interstate 35 and rail increases the chances of a potential major incident, he said.
Lenz said Edmond is interested in being a host site for the challenge on a home and home basis with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The local budget situation stalled the Edmond Fire Department’s progress toward that end, Lenz said.
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