People You Gotta See in the HazMat Business

Nov. 15, 2007

Over the years I have attended thousands of hours of HazMat training, both in formal courses and at conferences and seminars. While there have been numerous qualified speakers and instructors, and even some who were not, a few have stood out for various reasons. Lasting impressions were cemented in my memory because of the way they presented, the techniques and innovations they used, the knowledge, experience, and wisdom they conveyed, or because of the passion they brought to the classroom. All of these reasons made me become a better responder, a better presenter, a better instructor, but more importantly these experiences helped propel my own career.

I want to share with you my short list of exceptional HazMat speakers, presenters, or instructors who I believe make a big difference in this business because of all of the above but more so because of the intangibles they possess that put them in a class of their own. These fire service/HazMat responders are true leaders in that they have blazed new paths, they have shifted paradigms, and they have raised the bar and pushed the envelope. The following people are a cut above for reasons I will describe below and they should not be missed at the conferences and seminars across the country.

Also, time is of the essence for some of these people because Father Time marches on! Yes, the years of accumulating knowledge and experience are starting to take their toll and some of these fine people are starting to retire and may soon hang-up their public presentation offerings. My "Six Pack" of the HazMat elite are presented here in no particular order;

Ron Gore
He is a consummate professional from the Jacksonville, FL, area who is retired from the fire service where he spent 25 years as a captain. What is noteworthy is that Ron started the first public safety HazMat team in the United States in 1977 for the Jacksonville Fire Department and he also began training others across the country in 1978 through his own business. Ron can be reached through his website at where his training classes are also listed. Ron is hard to catch though as he can still be found active in the field and even on top of rail cars showing others how things work or even learning more himself.

Bill Hand
Another memorable presenter and 31-year veteran of the fire service who recently retired from the Houston Fire Department, Bill is without peer when it comes to many topics concerning hazardous materials but especially on the topic of HazMat containers. A passionate hazardous materials responder who unrelentingly pursues more knowledge, Bill is renowned for sharing his knowledge with anyone who will listen. Bill's calm demeanor and nuts and bolts approach belies that fact that he knows and understands hazmat as well as anyone. Catch him at any number of conferences across the country and learn from the best. Bill is also one who will respond to e-mail questions and will usually have the answer soon after you ask it.

Bill is also an original member of the International Association of Fire Fighter's (IAFF) Hazardous Materials Training Department that was formed in 1987. Not only has he been an active Master Instructor in the program he has also been very instrumental in curriculum development adding many of his own pictures and research to the courses that have been developed. Bill's legacy will certainly be one of sharing his knowledge freely to help make all of us better and safer.

Frank Docimo
Frank is a long-time firefighter and fire officer from Connecticut who is best known for his high-spirited presentations and instruction in the area of HazMat response. You will not soon forget his teaching methods and content from any number of his classes. Frank is especially known for his METERSR program that details how and why air monitoring instruments operate. METERSR stands for "Monitor the Environment To Ensure Responder Safety" and it lives up to the promise of making air monitoring concepts crystal clear. Frank can be contacted through his website at In 1987 he formed a training company and now can be found training around the world. Everyone needs to see Frank Docimo present on-air monitoring topics as he will leave an indelible impression.

Mike Callan
Mike is a retired fire captain, also from Connecticut, and also very adept at HazMat presentations and instructing. Mike is an entertaining speaker who can hold the attention of a crowd for extended periods of time with good stories from the HazMat world. His insights also provide new ways to look at things. Mike has conducted training for numerous national and international companies from around the world and he can be contacted at his website at < a href=""> Mike is also famous for his "Safe, Unsafe, Dangerous" program that more than adequately details how to look at HazMat response from a simple and unique perspective. You will not look at HazMat response the same after a session with Mike!

Cris Aguirre and Joe Gorman
Cris is a fire lieutenant and 30-year veteran with the Miami Fire Department and Joe is a 20-plus year veteran with the Fairfax County, VA, Fire Department and together they form a dynamic duo that teach a new and very innovative form of chemistry. As has been stated in this column before, no attempts will be made to describe their chemistry system but suffice it to say that it is a fresh way to look at how chemistry can work for you. To go further, their system also entails how to select the appropriate personal protective clothing and monitoring instruments based on the chemistry of the involved materials. More information on their unique chemistry training system is available at

To see them present their chemistry training is a pure joy as you witness their knowledge and passion displayed. They use many practical examples and by the time the session is over you will have a firm and highly usable skill that helps make chemistry work for you. Don't miss this opportunity to learn chemistry from these innovators! Cris and Joe are also IAFF Master Instructors in the HazMat and Weapons of Mass Destruction programs where course offerings are available at

So, there you have it! These six people are the "don't miss/can't miss" people on the circuit right now. Sure there are others who can also contribute to your learning and can adequately make your time worth seeing them, but these gentlemen are the cutting edge in the HazMat business. If you take this business seriously and want to extend your learning enroll in their offerings across the country. You will not be disappointed! Be careful out there!

This column is dedicated to the memory of another fine HazMat responder and instructor from the early days of HazMat response. Harry White passed away unexpectedly last December after a long and decorated career with the Nashville Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Response Team. Harry retired from the NFD as a Deputy Chief and after 25 years as a Captain but he was also an accomplished and sought after HazMat instructor. Harry is remembered for his cool demeanor and extensive knowledge and experience. Harry also had a fatherly way of conveying his knowledge and wisdom both in the classroom and on the training ground.

In one telling chapter of his life he and his team once responded to a report of an ammonia release near the Nashville rail yard. As they drew close to the scene Harry immediately and intuitively knew what was going on. Harry saw that an over-filled ammonia rail car had begun venting due to the high daytime temperature. Harry's brilliance was revealed as he used the circumstance to escort each and every one of his team members up to the top of the rail car to observe the intermittent opening of the pressure relief valve in the protective housing. Harry made sure the learning moment was completed safely as they waited for specialists to off-load some product to mitigate the fugitive emissions. Captain Harry White was a big contributor to the world of hazmat response and his legacy will not soon be forgotten.

As usual, please send comments, questions, input, and feedback to the author at [email protected] or through the website

David is a 26-year fire service veteran who serves as an officer on Ladder 6 in Madison, Wisconsin, and as the Operations and Training Director for the department's regional Level A HazMat team. David founded the Wisconsin Association of Hazardous Materials Responders, Inc. and served as the first president. Additionally, David teaches, presents, and authors articles for websites and trade magazines on a wide variety of hazmat topics. David is also a National Fire Academy instructor of chemistry and a Master Instructor for the International Association of Fire Fighters HazMat and Terrorism training programs.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!