NAS PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- Civilians and Sailors from Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Washington and Naval Air Station Patuxent River attended a hazardous material training course Dec. 11-15 that also included a simulated hazardous response exercise.
The course, titled Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response for Site Workers, was held aboard Pax River and spanned 40 hours over a five-day period.
"The course covers the legal aspects of anyone dealing with hazardous waste," said Chuck Watts, senior instructor and consultant with HazTrain, who conducted the course. "It covers the reasons why and what is required when it comes to the identification of a hazardous site, identifying the parties causing the contamination, and the requirements of the individuals doing the cleanup."
Segments of the training also covered protective clothing and equipment, toxicology and the effects of chemical exposure, and basic chemistry.
"We teach different ways of monitoring or testing the atmosphere to identify the hazards and give them enough knowledge to protect themselves - how chemicals can get into the body, do they need a respirator or protective clothing and, if so, what kind," Watts explained.
Participants suited up in two different protective ensembles: a blue Level A suit, sealed to be gas and vapor tight with a self-contained breathing apparatus inside the suit; and a white Level B suit.
"The Level A suit provides the highest level of respiratory and skin protection," Watts added. "The Level B suit has the SCBA tank on the back, and while it provides the highest level of respiratory protection, it's only designed for chemical splash protection and can't be used in an area contaminated with a skin hazard."
After learning how to inspect and use the equipment, and how to properly protect themselves with the necessary suit, cartridge, face pieces, boots and gloves, the group split up into pairs and took turns responding to a simulated situation they might encounter.
Watts said the scenario presented involved a group of insurgents who drove a van onto the installation and were carrying stolen radioactive material and some form of chemical that could be used to make an improvised explosive device; two things which could lead to fallout from a dirty bomb.
"The teams approached the empty van carrying a multi-gas meter to check for oxygen concentration in the atmosphere, and to detect a flammable or explosive atmosphere," Watts said. "They also looked for carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide, and had an instrument that looked for volatile organic compounds, normally associated with flammables or potentially toxic chemicals."
Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Ramsey, Facility Engineering Acquisition Division (FEAD), found the course beneficial.
"If a large hazmat spill or incident ever occurs here at Pax, it'll be an all-hands exercise," Ramsey noted. "After completing this course, I feel confident enough to suit up and help the first responders in any way they require."
The course culminated in a written exam and earned the participants a Navy hazmat certification, which will require an annual 8-hour refresher course to maintain.
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