Hazardous Materials Rapid Intervention – by Chris Simpson

Hazardous Materials Rapid Intervention – by Chris Simpson

By Chris Simpson

Calls involving hazardous materials (hazmats) are low-frequency/high-risk events. There are many variables to take into consideration when working on such incidents.

A risk-based analysis should be performed at all incidents to determine the number of personnel and resources needed. An often-overlooked component of the incident is who is doing the rescuing of the technician down range in the event of an emergency. While the topic is underdiscussed, it is an important aspect of the incident. The high-risk/low-frequency events often have the most room for error.

There are different philosophies on who does the rescuing, whether it is the backup team, a rapid intervention team (RIT), or simply a hazmat rescue team. That aside, what is the best method to rescue the person and how effective and efficient is rescuing him in a timely manner?

Time is the enemy and of the essence. Project MAYDAY1 has shown the average time to get the rescue team to the hot zone is around six minutes. The times can vary based on the rescue team’s position and readiness. Then there is significant additional time in locating, packaging, and removing the patient. From medical training, we know permanent brain damage and death may occur without adequate profusion and oxygen to the brain in from four to six minutes.2

A game-changing drag rescue device is known as the FAST Board. Its application is versatile; however, with the drag blanket it is a great solution to rescuing a down member. In relation to hazmat incidents, the FAST Board can primarily be used to rescue civilians. If a civilian needs to be rescued down range in the hot zone, the rigid platform and easy connection make packaging and moving more efficient and effective in a short period of time. In regard to confined space whether from a tank, hopper, vault, or pipe, there is no changeover from a horizontal drag to a vertical lift. Furthermore, if the entry team is operating belowgrade or above-grade and even on a catwalk or tank car, you need to consider how a victim will be removed. There are many issues such as limited access when carrying and dragging will not work. Having the right piece of equipment to do the job for the limited-accessible spaces is key.

When deep inside a building, belowgrade, abovegrade, or other location down range for a considerable amount of time, air depletion is expected. While operating in such situations, more than likely fatigue will set in, possibly causing a slip, trip, or fall. In addition, a medical emergency such as dehydration, cardiac event, heat stroke, or seizure may occur.

  • Unlike typical drags, there is no harness conversion or need to just pull on a suit. The patient in any level of protection can be secured to the FAST Board with one click and one pull. The FAST Board has webbing and a haul line attached for dragging, hauling, or any other means as needed.

    The FAST Board can be used to move heavy equipment and carry tools and supplies down range. A partner of the rescuer could use the board to rescue the other. If the RIT or backup/rescue team was equipped with the FAST Board, they could perform the rescue. With the attachment of the drag blanket, there is added protection of the suit on the lower extremities from tears or cuts. The patient suits are less likely to get compromised.

    Many departments are faced with limited staffing when operating at many incidents, including hazmats. Being able to rescue one of our own with limited staffing quickly and efficiently is vital. The FAST Board cuts down on the personnel needed to effect a rescue. Additionally, as shown in Project MAYDAY, rescue teams have shown to have increased respirations, increased anxiety, lost track of what to do, experienced the inability to complete a task, or had a secondary MAYDAY. The simplicity of using the FAST Board allows rescuers to combat these responses.

    Emergency decontamination or rapid decontamination needs to be performed on the member to be able to do a suit cutout and to get the patient to emergency medical services (EMS), which is part of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard known as isolation decontamination. The Level A suit cutout should be communicated, coordinated, and well-choreographed. Whether the suit is cut from front to back and filleted or you use a U cut, removing the patient from the suit is easier because of his relatively prone position on the FAST Board. The patient can be easily removed from the suit, then passed onto EMS.

    All of the parts of the FAST Board are modular, so decontamination of the board is easy. Once the patient is removed, decontaminate the board based on the product contamination.

    There are currently no NFPA standards or Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines on the process of rescue operations with regard to hazmat incidents, so it is up to you to provide the best possible outcome for your own.


    1. Abbott, Don. Project Mayday, projectmayday.net/.

    2. “CPR – Adult and Child after Onset of Puberty: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000013.htm.

    Additional References

    Salvesen, Bobby, Host.; Monaco, Mike, Host. “HAZ MAT RIT with Mark Sicuso.” The HAZ MAT Guyshttps://thehazmatguys.com/thmg135-haz-mat-rit-with-mark-sicuso/.

    Salvesen, Bobby, Host.; Monaco, Mike, Host. “HAZMAT RIT Discussion.” The HAZ MAT Guyshttps://thehazmatguys.com/thmg162-hazmat-rit-discussion/.

    Salvesen, Bobby, Host.; Monaco, Mike, Host. “Rick Emery Educates Us On Backup Teams Project.” The HAZ MAT Guys, 25 September 2020. https://thehazmatguys.com/thmg255-rick-emery-educates-us-on-backup-teams-project/.

    Salvesen, Bobby, Host.; Monaco, Mike, Host. “Interview with Darryl Wiseman on HM Backup Teams – Part 1.” The HAZ MAT Guys, 9 October 2020. https://thehazmatguys.com/thmg257-interview-with-darryl-wiseman-on-hm-backup-teams-part-1/.

    Salvesen, Bobby, Host.; Monaco, Mike, Host. “Interview with Darryl Wiseman on HM Backup Teams – Part 2.” The HAZ MAT Guys, 16 October 2020. https://thehazmatguys.com/thmg258-interview-with-darryl-wiseman-on-hm-backup-teams-part-2/.

    Salvesen, Bobby, Host.; Monaco, Mike, Host. “Operations and Backup with Rick Emery and Don Abbott – Extended.” The HAZ MAT Guys, 30 October 2020. https://thehazmatguys.com/thmg260-operations-and-backup-with-rick-emery-and-don-abbott-extended/.

    CHRIS SIMPSON has 18 years of firefighter and rescue experience both volunteer and career. He volunteered for 10 years before becoming a career firefighter with the Harrisburg (PA) Bureau of Fire. He later joined the Philadelphia (PA) Fire Department, where he is a firefighter assigned to Ladder 6. Simpson graduated with a B.S. from the Pennsylvania State University and is enrolled in a master of emergency management program through Millersville University.

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