Chapter 31: Hazardous Materials - Fundamentals of Fire Fighter

Fundamentals of Fire Fighter Skills, Third Edition
Chapter 31: Hazardous Materials: Implementing a Response
Chief Concepts
After identifying that a hazardous material is present, you must identify the resources
needed to properly respond to the incident.
There are three levels of hazardous materials incidents:
• Level I—Small amount of hazardous material involved and usually handled by
the local fire department.
• Level II—A hazardous materials team is required with fire fighters providing
• Level III—The largest and most serious scale. Federal agencies will be called and
large-scale evacuations may be needed.
The resources sought for a hazardous materials incident should include support
personnel, trained hazardous materials technicians, and technical specialists who will
help identify the hazardous material and control the incident. Additional calls should then
request decontamination personnel and equipment. Other notifications could include the
CHEMTREC, the National Response Center, local and state environmental agencies, and
the local emergency planning commission.
A predetermined list of contact names, agencies, and numbers should be established and
maintained at the dispatch center.
No offensive action should be taken until the hazardous material has been properly
identified. After the material is identified, an operations-level responder should perform
only actions that do not involve contact with the material. The responder must use full
PPE during any activity and must complete decontamination procedures prior to leaving
any area where the hazardous material is present.
When reporting the hazardous material incident, if possible, provide all of the following
• The exact address and specific location of the leak or spill
• Identification of indicators and markers of hazardous materials
• All color or class information obtained from placards
• Four-digit United Nations/North American
• Hazardous Materials Code numbers for the hazardous materials
• Hazardous material identification obtained from shipping papers or MSDS and
the potential quantities of hazardous materials involved
• Description of the container, including its size, capacity, type, and shape
• The amount of chemical that could leak and the amount that has already leaked
• Exposures of people and the presence of special populations (children or elderly)
• The environment in the immediate area
• Current weather conditions, including wind direction and speed
• A contact or callback telephone number and two-way radio frequency or channel
The highest priority of an initial response plan is to consider the safety of the responding
personnel. Responders are there to isolate, contain, and remedy the problem— not to
become a part of it.
© 2014 Jones & Bartlett Learning
Sometimes no action is the safest course of action.
At the operational level, all response objectives should be primarily defensive (personnel
do not come in contact with the hazardous material).
Defensive objectives do not involve stopping the leak or release of a hazardous material
and include the following:
• Isolating the area affected by the leak or spill, and evacuating victims who could
become exposed to the hazardous material if the leak or spill were to progress
• Controlling where the spill or release is spreading
• Containing the spill to a specific area
• Diking and damming
• Absorbing or adsorbing a hazardous material
• Stopping the flow remotely
• Diluting or diverting a material
• Suppressing or dispersing a vapor
Terrorists who want to injure responding personnel with a secondary device or attack will
typically make the initial attack very dramatic to draw responders into very close
proximity to the scene. As responders begin to treat victims, the secondary attack then
takes place.
• Signs of secondary devices may include trip wires, timers, and ordinary everyday
containers (e.g., luggage, briefcases, boxes) found in very close proximity to the
initial incident site.
• The smell of chemicals or the sighting of chemical dispersion devices or other
containers that may hold chemical, biological, or even radioactive agents could be
an indicator that a secondary attack is possible.
The ICS can be expanded to handle a hazardous materials incident. A special technical
group may be developed under the Operations Section, known as the Hazardous
Materials Branch.
© 2014 Jones & Bartlett Learning