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NEWS | Sept. 3, 2020

Employees develop unique workplace

By Ms. Jacqueline Boucher

Emergency responders learned to master indispensable HAZMAT (hazardous materials) skills during a recent on-site training course, the first of its kind at Tobyhanna Army Depot.

Instructors leveraged classroom sessions and practical scenarios to help dozens of employees develop unique workplace skills while attending two certificate programs – Hazardous Materials Technician and Public Safety Telecommunicator (Levels I and II) certification courses.

As a condition of employment, firefighters are required to earn a Hazardous Materials Technician Certificate within one year of their service date. Refresher classes are taught annually to help personnel remain current. Students engaged in classroom and hands-on exercises throughout the 80-hour program. An environmental expert also attended the course.

“One of my responsibilities is to receive and store hazardous waste in our waste storage building,” said Sean Maynard, environmental protection specialist in the Environmental Branch. “I was able to get a better understanding of the incident management system and the roles and responsibilities within the system.”

The purpose of the course was twofold. To certify six new employees and recertify 28 personnel assigned to the fire department.

Jack McLaughlin was familiar with the subject matter taught during the HAZMAT technician course.  The firefighter moved from Fort Carson, Colorado, to join the fire department here a few months ago.

“The training was intensive,” McLaughlin said. “The practical exercises reinforced what we learned in the classroom.  It was difficult to navigate wearing the protective gear, but I’m glad we got the chance to apply our new skills.”

The certification course meets National Fire Protection Association standards and provides fire, emergency services and environmental spill team members with HAZMAT-specific response and mitigation knowledge and skills, according to Daryl Gebhardt, assistant fire chief in the Installation Services Directorate’s Risk Management Division.

 “The extensive hands-on training includes site safety procedures, personal protective equipment, containment techniques, atmospheric monitoring, chemical classification, decontamination procedures, incident management systems, and integrated exercises,” said Jeff Moyer, fire inspector in the Installation Services Directorate’s Training and Prevention Section.

Hazardous materials include explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poisons and radioactive materials, which can take form as a liquid, solid or gas. Emergencies can happen during production, storage, transportation, use or disposal.

One week earlier, law enforcement and fire department personnel were certified as public safety telecommunication professionals following their participation in the two-part Public Safety Telecommunicator course.  It was a 40-hour course consisting of classroom and practical exercises.

Gebhardt explained that this course meets the requirements of NFPA and teaches personnel who receive, process or disseminate information of a public safety nature how to disseminate information using telecommunication devices such as phone and two-way radios.

“I feel like the class is a must have in order to work the desk and dispatch police for incidents on base. I received a lot of information on fire dispatch that I didn’t know prior to the class,” said Brian Layland, police officer in the Installation Services Directorate’s Law Enforcement Branch.

Firefighter Stephen Sheridan said its vital dispatch personnel receive the highest level of training to be proficient at their job. He explained that students learned to prioritize calls, manage resources and handle calls from different kinds of callers.

“The telecommunicator class taught us to be better prepared to deal with everyday incidents, as well as emergencies that happen on the depot,” said Sheridan, who is assigned to the Risk Management Division. “As a telecommunicator at the installation’s communications center you have to answer calls, provide accurate information, as well as dispatch appropriate response units for different incidents, which can all be happening simultaneously.”

A first responder is a person with specialized training who is among the first to arrive and provide assistance at the scene of an emergency, such as an accident, natural disaster or terrorism.  Regularly scheduled, new and recurring training helps keep Team Tobyhanna safe.

“Training like this helps me be a better firefighter,” said McLaughlin.