Whether responding to a man-made terrorism or a natural disaster, preparation and planning is the key to a successful response. With this in mind, the Health Hazardous Materials Division (HHMD) held its third annual refresher and drill on May 15-17. This three-day event was designed to raise Hazardous Materials Specialists' awareness of terrorist threats and to enhance their skills in monitoring and detecting chemicals, performing incident size up, and mitigation and abatement of hazardous materials incidents following a catastrophic event.
Two days were spent at the Department's and HHMD headquarters, where staff received a number of classroom and practical Haz-Mat courses. This training met State requirements and provided required Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for staff registered as California Environmental Health Specialists. The County Sheriff's Department, Haz Mat Task Force 43, industry experts and many of HHMD's own staff provided the training.
Day three was held at the new and improved Del Valle Training Center, where staff participated in four different drill scenarios. Although the drill started promptly at 8 a.m., one scenario experienced a short delay when a rattlesnake that was found coiled up next to one of the props had to be removed by HHMD staff.
The emphasis of each of the four scenarios was to incorporate an earthquake type situation that challenged each team to stretch beyond their normal scope of activities. Supervisors were integrated in the scenarios to enhance their skill set in the event of a natural disaster and each scenario required the teams to establish ICS (Incident Command System) positions. The scenarios challenged each team to coordinate under time constraints and identify, mitigate and abate the simulated incident.
The scenarios consisted of a "plug and patch" (a leaking container), white powder (biological), inventory and search scenarios (post-earthquake search for chemicals), and the crowd pleaser and highlight of the day, a simulated reconnaissance inspection that utilized Del Valle's newest state of the art Haz Mat training room. The training room contains moving props, sounds, odors and fog to obscure vision and challenge the students. As staff entered the room, they encountered falling and spilling chemical drums, leaking chemical pipes, emergency sirens and a reacting chemical tank. Under these simulated earthquake conditions, staff entered the room to observe and document the types of chemicals and the condition of their containment while maintaining entry team safety.
The drill and the training were considered a success thanks to the efforts of all of the participants, instructors and proctors!