Radiation accident response safety training - case study

Radiation. Don’t run away from it! Train to deal with it!

Managing risk

Like any other day at the fire station, the daily equipment checks and maintenance were carried out first thing in the morning then through the door bursts a grinning Watch Manager with a bowl of folded bits of paper.
“Right, pick a piece of paper and then give the duty crew a five minute talk on the piece of equipment from the fire appliance,” he says. As we worked through the pieces of paper it came to my turn, in went my hand, I opened my piece of paper and the watch manager‘s grin widens.
I had the Rados RDS 200 Universal Survey Meter (radiation detector). I began with how the Rados RDS 200 is operated and its uses, including a confusing description of the types of radiation. I clearly needed to increase my knowledge of radiation and procedures around such a dangerous area.
I decided the best way to increase my knowledge would be to put together a presentation about the Rados RDS 200 and a lecture covering radiation, and then to present this to the station crew. The biggest problem I found was being unable to carry out realistic training with the RADOS RDS 200 unless I could acquire some nasty radiation, which wasn’t going to happen.

Along Came Argon Electronics

I began collecting as much information as I could. I came across a company ARGON Electronics. This company specialises in CRBN (Chemical Biological Radiation Nuclear)
Hazmat simulator training systems, supplying a very varied and comprehensive selection of simulators including the Rados RDS200 SIM.
After visiting the Argon website I contacted them to enquire about the use of a Rados RDS200 simulator. Within an hour I was having a conversation with Steven Pike (Managing Director) who was willing to assist me with my plans and loan me a kit which included simulation emitters (both directional and spherical), simulation powders and liquids, the GMP-11-SIM simulation beta contamination probe and EPD-MK2-SIM (personal dosimeters).
This was fantastic news now I could plan a training package based on realistic scenarios, whilst evaluating this new equipment.
We are very lucky at our fire station because we have an old abandoned holiday village down the road which we have been using to train in many areas of rescue. The best way to describe this site is a mini Pripyat (town of the Chernobyl disaster).

Off to Luton

I met Steven Pike at the Argon head office in Luton to collect the training equipment. After a brief explanation of my plans, Steven assured me that the equipment would be perfect. Within an hour he had instructed me on how to set up the equipment including the emitters, beta probe, powders and liquids. This was all reinforced through practical application. Steven was extremely helpful and the simulation equipment was very easy to set up and use.

Planning, searching, developing

Back at Ryde Fire Station on the Isle of Wight the task had really picked up momentum. I now had ideas, various venues and simulation radiation detection equipment.
My first task was to design a lecture about radiation. At the station we had input a few times on the subject of radiation presented by the Watch Officer. Although very good and in-depth, it was too complex for people without a scientific background, such as me and the majority of my colleagues. This normally caused a lot of head scratching and confusion. The Watch Officer was of great help if I needed things explained.
I stripped the subject back and began at its simplest, firstly creating a lecture about the Rados RDS 200, its uses within varied industries, what it detects, how to use it, its construction, etc. The second part was harder due to the massive subject matter that radiation covers. I created another lecture covering the basics of radiation. This included various types of radiation, dose rates, fire service procedures and a section covering Chernobyl and radiation levels around the disaster zone.
The two sessions were delivered to the station followed by a short practical hands-on session using the Rados RDS 200 SIM and GMP-11-SIM beta contamination probe. The gamma simulation emitters were turned on and beta liquids and powders were used on food to enable the simulation detection equipment to show readings. This was the first time any of us had seen readings on the Rados RDS 200.
With use of the dosage prompt card the firefighters could understand the levels of gamma radiation that they were receiving. With the GMP-11-SIM beta contamination probe attached, firefighters discovered which food items and drinks were contaminated.
These combined sessions were a success with positive feedback and fire fighters now being comfortable with radiation readings and detection. The goal of delivering a session that gave a real understanding and hands on approach to radiation was achieved thanks to the RDS200 simulator.

Practical training sessions

Now people had a better understanding of radiation and how to understand the readings on the RDS 200 we began to train using realistic scenario-based training.

Road Traffic Collision involving Radiation

This was set up to simulate a broken container with a source of radiation inside. Using a directional emitter, EPD-MK2- SIM (personal dosimeters) and RDS 200 SIM, a van was parked and a car was put into position to simulate a rear collision. The car contained a casualty that had leg entrapment.
The crew needed to release the casualty and make the area as safe as possible, whilst keeping crew exposure to a minimum and within a safe working limit. The training session was completed and we were surprised at how long a simple task had taken to achieve. The debrief was very thorough and points raised on how and why the training session had taken so long, and then to apply learning points to further scenarios/incidents.

School laboratory accident

Set up within a building simulating a spillage of a radioactive substance. Using radioactive powder simulator, a RDS 200 and the GMP-11-SIM simulation Beta contamination probe, crews were called to the incident and would find that there was a walking wounded casualty within the building with contaminant on them also contaminant spilled within the building.
This scenario enabled us to simulate wearing hazmat protective suits, source the radioactive substance, set up decontamination process and fill out all correct paperwork whilst having hands on practical use of radiation detection equipment. This scenario was carried out far better than the first, due to previous learning points raised and fire crews getting used to the equipment. Feedback during the debrief being very positive once again towards the equipment.

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