HazMat Safety Training

HazMat Training Methods

In this chapter we explore the features, advantages and limitations of three HazMat training methods: Live Agent Training (LAT), Simulant Agent Training (SAT) and Simulator Training.

Live-Agent Training (LAT)

Live Agent Training (LAT) is widely considered to be the pinnacle of hazmat training for first responders because it utilizes small quantities of live biological and chemical sources to create
realistic, hands-on training scenarios.
But while LAT can provide an invaluable opportunity to experience life-like hazmat emergencies in the field, it can also be time-intensive and costly to implement and requires strict adherence to
environmental / health and safety regulations.
The highly specialised nature of such training also means that LAT can often only be undertaken once a trainee has demonstrated an advanced understanding and proficiency in the detection,
identification and decontamination of hazardous materials.
Safety when dealing with any live chemical or biological agent is paramount so LAT can only be undertaken in specially designated LAT centers.
The chemicals used in training exercises are of the highest grade - usually in the 90-95% purity range - so all training must be overseen with close collaboration between appropriate environmental agencies and government departments.
If an LAT center is located close to a residential area, then trainees will only be able to participate in indoor training. Complex filter systems will also be required to ensure that chemicals are not
released into the outside atmosphere.
Any LAT that takes place outdoors must be carefully controlled, taking into consideration the time of the day the exercise is conducted, the weather conditions and the type and quantity of chemical or biological agent being used.
Importantly too, at the conclusion of any LAT hazmat training scenario, all operational equipment must be either decontaminated, and certified clean, before being released back into service - or in some cases may need to be destroyed altogether.

Simulant Agent Training (SAT)

Simulant agent training is in many respects a short step down from LAT, as it involves the use of chemical substances that mimic the properties and behaviour of live sources.
But while simulant agent training offers a high degree of realism it does also have its shortcomings.
One of the biggest challenges faced by instructors is the necessity for environmental safety.
Simulants can be difficult to dispense and control in open air scenarios for example and largearea dissemination is generally not encouraged.
Even when dispersal is permitted, environmental factors such as wind, air temperature and saturation within the training location can significantly impede the learning experience.
Many chemical simulants are not easily biodegradable, so the repeated use of simulants in any one specific area can lead to a build up of toxicity over time, with the potential to become a significant hazard both to the environment and to human health.
The very small quantities that are often used can also limit scenario options, which can adversely impact upon the overall learning experience.

Simulation Training

Simulation training incorporates the use of intelligent, computer-based simulation tools that accurately replicate how real devices react when exposed to a range of chemical agents.
Simulator training also incorporates the use of realistic replica detectors which means it serves as an invaluable training ground in preparing students for the unique challenges of LAT. The key
difference though is that no chemical or live agent is required.
Unlike LAT, which has stringent regulatory controls, simulator training can be undertaken anywhere, including public buildings and civilian locations.
Larger training areas can also be quickly set up without any requirement for adherence to environmental regulations.
Because simulator detectors have been designed to respond to safe electronic sources, they are especially useful in the carrying out of radiation safety training exercises.
Simulator radiation detectors for example, provide radiological incident instructors with the tools to safely teach search, reconnaissance, survey and location skills, as well as providing a handson understanding of isodoserate mapping, safe demarcation and shielding.
Crucially though, because no live agents are used, there are no environmental or health and safety implications.

HazMat Training with Simulators

The use of simulator detector instruments enables industrial, military personnel and first responders to experience realistic and compelling training scenarios of the highest possible standard.

An alternative to the more traditional methods of chemical incident training is to use an intelligent computer based simulation tool.
The software-based PlumeSIM-SMART system, for example, has been specially designed for use in a wide range of industrial scenarios, including the release of radiological, chemical and petrochemical gases, vapors and agents.
PlumeSIM-SMART runs on a standard laptop that connects wirelessly to one or more handheld smart devices or mobiles (SMART-SIM) and that simulates real-life detection instruments by means of an installed software application. Students can then work in a designated training location which can be up to 2,500km in area.
The system enables instructors to create, run and optimise each training exercise from a central point. It also provides them with the ability to influence the readings that their students obtain across the training area and throughout each phase of the exercise.
Each student is able to see a customised display on their personal SMART-SIM, which automatically updates, in real time, to reflect their individual movement and location and the effect of changing wind and weather conditions.
The route and actions taken by each student are also automatically logged, which allows the instructor to review the choice of survey route, the time taken, the information collected and the decisions made.
Tabletop exercises, which are ideal for command officer and management training are also readily implemented and can provide a cost effective practice run for field exercises.
Computer-based simulation tools such as PlumeSIM-SMART offer an extremely effective extension to existing safety management programmes by providing a realistic dimension to training scenarios that ensures trainees are confident, and competent, in responding to a wide range of potential HazMat threats.

HazMat training using PPE

While PPE apparatus provides essential protection in chemical emergency incidents, it also presents some inherent challenges and limitations, including:
• Restricted movement due to the weight of the equipment
• Restricted vision due to visual field limitations
• Problems with communication (which can be partially overcome by the use of 2-way radios)
• Challenges operating, reading and interpreting certain detection instruments due to poor ergonomics
• The risk of overheating or dehydration
• Psychological stressors due to the confining nature of the full suits
Crucially too, the equipment that offers the most highly protective form of protection, such as that used in Chemical Emergency Response, can only be worn for a few minutes at a time.
Because of the physiological and psychological stressors associated with the use of PPE it’s also essential to conduct a medical monitoring program of the participants to record weight, vital signs, recent medical history, hydration and appropriate decontamination at the conclusion of the incident.
Training programs are also essential for HazMat teams to ensure they understand how to don the equipment, how to maintain and decontaminate it, how to recognize when the equipment has been compromised (due to tears in the suit for example) and when it is necessary to dispose of the apparatus.


Major incidents involving dangerous quantities of HazMat substances are thankfully rare. And there are a raft of regulations in place that are designed to ensure the safest possible handling, transport, storage and disposal of hazardous chemicals.
However in the event of a release, be it accidental or deliberate, it is vital that HazMat teams, military crews, or anyone tasked with first response, are equipped with the equipment, knowledge and training to react with confidence.
As this eBook highlights, the ability to deliver realistic, engaging and safe HazMat training scenarios has a significant role to play in ensuring the consistent, measurable and verifiable HazMat skills of all trainees. And the use of electronic simulator detectors in training scenarios can provide HazMat crews with the highest degree of operational readiness.

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