You have been dispatched for a leaking 55-gallon drum. The call came in from the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit, which just disarmed a large-caliber artillery shell next to the leaking drum. Your mission is to go downrange to take samples of the air and leaking fluids, then determine the...
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Electricity is provided by generators, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinders are filled by a Mogas-fired compressor and the pumps on vehicles are run by diesel engines, so the noise levels were off the charts. I was impressed with the competencies of all of the members of these units. Should they ever leave the military, they would be great assets to any fire department.
We will be providing this training again, in perhaps as many as 10 more trips to Iraq or other places around the world. We are also working with National Guard Civilian Support Teams (CSTs). The experience has given me newfound respect for those soldiers - men and women - who are performing hazardous materials response operations under combat conditions on a daily basis.
Michael L. Smith, a Firehouse contributing editor, is a retired deputy chief of the District of Columbia Fire Department, where he was chief of training. With over 35 years fire service experience, including more than 30 with DCFD, he is currently working as an international consultant and instructor for the fire service and U.S. military on incident command, training, risk management and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) response. Smith is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy and a Certified Municipal Manager (CMM) from George Washington University. He holds degrees in fire science, construction management and public administration.