I am not a glow worm.
Full disclosure – This is a repost from 09/2009 – It deserved a bump-up and to fix the video. Make sure to watch the vid!
Hazardous Materials, or “HazMat” as it is commonly known, is scary stuff. At least for me that is. In public safety circles, they’re mainly the concern of firefighters and I’ve never received training on them outside of the realm of the fire department. My EMS only agencies have always told me that we remain in the “cold zone” and wait for patients to be brought to us after decontamination.
And that’s just fine with me. Ckemtp is NOT a glow worm; did I mention that?
But, since I’m also a firefighter I finally broke down one weekend and gave in to the pressure I was under to get my HazMat Operations certification. 40 hours of class, lots of homework, and some very dry PowerPoint slide shows. After the first weekend of the class there’s some things that I’ve learned and figured out.
1. HazMat’s still scary.
2. Ck’s still not a glow worm.
3. EMS agencies really need to train more on HazMat.
“We know hazmat” you say. And I know that you’re saying it because that’s what I would have said before those last 20 boring hours spent learning that I knew nothing about hazmat. HazMat is something that we take for granted in that we think that it won’t happen in our jurisdiction, or that it won’t affect us on our day to day. I happen to hope that it won’t hit during my duty days.
This video is from Seward, IL. A small town in the middle of a lot of corn that found itself one day having a big problem. The video is from a surveillance camera on the side of a grade school in the middle of town. The vid starts slow, but has a definite “HOLY CRAP!” moment about halfway through. You’ll see what I mean, all hell breaks loose.
See? Holy hell on crutches! That’s anhydrous ammonia, a common chemical used in farming (and in methamphetamine production). A tanker truck full of the stuff sprung a leak and flooded the town with a toxic cloud. Thankfully, nobody was killed. There were a few firefighters sent to the hospital, and some very scary moments, but it all turned out to be ok. This one’s from the same school. It’s just as scary.
Remember this, a HazMat incident doesn’t have to be the once in a while overturned tanker truck full of MethylEthylBadJuJu. Any every day response can turn quickly into a hazardous materials incident.
Not too long ago, an EMS only agency that I may or may not work for received a call for an “eye injury” in one of our really rural response areas. This call generated a single ALS ambulance only response out to the farm where the injury happened.
The medic and the EMT responded out to the scene, which was about a 15minute emergent response. Arriving at the farm, they were directed to the dairy barn to find their patient.
Their patient was in a lot of pain.
Apparently, he worked for a dairy services company and was delivering product to the farm when he was injured. If you don’t know much about dairies, milk processing leaves a byproduct called “Milk Stone” which is the dissolved minerals in milk solidifying on dairy equipment. Think of hard-water stains. Dairies use products containing phosphoric acid to clean it out. It’s like Lime Away on steroids. This stuff is pretty nasty. Dairies use it in a diluted form, but the supply companies carry the concentrated stuff. This patient was filling a container with the high-powered stuff to dilute it into the customer’s container when the concentrate fell. He reflexively looked right down at the falling container and got a face full of the stuff when it splashed back up at him.
Do you remember that chemical burn stuff you were trained on? He had them. Do you remember the decontamination training you had? What about proper personal protective equipment, do you have it? Do you know when to put it on? Do you know how? What do you know about the chemical?
While treating the patient, one of the paramedics noticed that his EMS gloves was turning white. It was the acid eating through it. A lot of water was used to irrigate the patient, and the providers, before transporting the patient to the hospital.
This was an everyday incident that actually happened. Think about how you’d handle it, because tomorrow it could happen to you.
And once again, Ck is not a glow worm.