Funding Prepares Firefighters for Chemical Contamination Attacks
They know how to put out fires, deal with burn injuries, and save people from drowning, but when it comes to dealing with chemical accidents or attacks, Minnesota's firefighters are the first to admit they need more training. Thanks to new grant money from Homeland Security, that's exactly what they're getting this summer.
A total of 35 Minnesota fire departments have undergone this training since the program began in April. The Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education says that in the next five years, nearly 800 fire departments in Minnesota are expected to be put through the decontamination drills.
On Tuesday, it was the Maplewood Fire Department's turn. Firefighters from North St. Paul joined them. Instructors put them through a simulated ammonia spill. Volunteer "victims" provided the drama as the firefighters were shown how to calm them down, keep them orderly, and ultimately, safely hose them down with water.
This training came about after a recent government study found victims of Hazmat situations were too often treated at hospitals, and not at the scene. It determined firefighters nationwide weren't suitably prepared.
Instructor Chuck McKusick with Fire Instruction Rescue Education Inc., stressed the importance of the drills. "We could have any type of criminal situation, just about anything," he said. "And not only chemical but we may have a pathogen that's been released. So firefighters have to be trained to deal with any of these kinds of situations to assess them."
"You hear about it in the book but never actually do it hands on," said firefighter Ryan Anderson.
"And we're doing everything we can to make it as comfortable and safe as we can," said Maplewood Chief Steve Lukin.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org