Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2008 10:21:49 -0400
Reply-To: David Roberts <droberts**At_Symbol_Here**DEPAUW.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: David Roberts <droberts**At_Symbol_Here**DEPAUW.EDU>
Subject: Re: Local Fire Department training?
Comments: To: Ralph Stuart
In-Reply-To: <D38DD5C1-D375-4C28-A9B1-433777610F8A**At_Symbol_Here**>

Hey Ralph,

As you may remember, I am both a Ph.D. chemist and a local firefighter.  
We have done some of the tabletop exercises and they are received well.  
But the thing I find most helpful to my department is to simply bring 
them into a lab setting (small shifts, whatever) and expose them to as 
many different hazard classes as you have available.  We taught a 
firefighter technician class, and in that we did a lab exercise every 
day.  We didn't deal with offloading tankers (that's a specialty thing), 
but we did deal with other concepts described below.  Very general 
chemistry but appreciated.

Here are some of the things I have done with my group (realize I'm in a 
small town - most of the firefighters in my town have not gone to 
college - not sure in your case):

1.  let them determine flash points as they are taught in the field.  
That is, get 10 or so solvents out, ranging from ethyl ether to 
chloroform.  Have them put a dime size amount in the bottom of a watch 
glass and then bring a match towards the watchglass.  The closer the 
match gets, the less flammable the material.  You can actually rank 
them, and get a good idea on flash point.  You can do a lot with this 
(mix solvents, etc...), they like it (it involves fire).  They can see 
heat evolved (if they have a heat sensor, they can use that to rank them 
for heat production).  Use fireplace matches - talk about general safety 
rules like no open solvents when lighting match, etc...  Don't bring a 
lot of fuel into the room and it won't really matter.  They are 
firefighters, so they need to be able to deal with a little shock.

2.  Show them what happens when things mix with water.  Anhydrous things 
are best, but also simple things like boiling water by adding it to 
sulfuric acid.  And, with that, have them do some things that we don't 
let students do, mix water into acid or mix a strong acid and base.  Of 
course do this in controlled situations, but show them things that make 
them think, so that when they are in a dangerous situation they don't 
make it worse and they think first, that's the key. Bring out some 
serious smoking anhydrous things (titanium tetrachloride for example) to 
show them how they react with air/water/etc...

3.  Along the same lines, show them air reactive/water reactive 
chemicals.  These are transported daily, and they need to simply see 
it.  Many of them have never seen these things.  Show how red 
phosphorous spontaneous lights when exposed to air.  It's a common thing 
found in meth labs, so they need to beware.

4.  Show them cryogens.  Liquid nitrogen, liquid CO2, etc...  Talk about 
boiling points (blows them away that it is actually boiling), etc...  
Put some dry ice in a test tube and put a balloon on top - blow up 
balloon.  Very simple thing but shows sublimation.  That is a common 
fire term that they don't totally understand.

5.  Use a separatory funnel and show the concept of density (vs. 
water).  Use chloroform and ether (or anything that floats).  This gives 
them the concept of density but also shows them the thought of overflow 
dams vs. underflow dams (when you would use each). 

6.  Neutralization.  neutralize an acid with water, and then some common 
things that you can buy in bulk at a local hardware store (lime, baking 
soda, etc...).  Give them a concept on neutralization, as sometimes it's 
necessary for them to do this in large scale (huge spills).  Water is 
terrible, so if you can get bulk lime/whatever, you may be better served. 

7.  Vapor density.  The best thing for this is bromine, as it is colored 
and heavy.  For vapor density, I do bring in a periodic table and talk 
about chemical formulas.  The biggest generalization I do on vapor 
density is to talk about how many atoms are in it (say C8H18 or 
something like that), and if it has more than 2 C's, O's, or N's, it 
will be heavier than air.  Less and it's lighter (so NH3 is lighter than 
air, CH4 is lighter than air).  Ignore H's.  Generally, gases coming off 
of liquids are heavier than air (except for NH3).  It's important to 
know vapor density because they need to know where to hold the meter 
when they are measuring.  CO monitors are best held high (or medium), 
while lel monitors for gasoline are best held low.  Propane will 
accumulate in a basement, so if you have a propane leak you need to 
evacuate houses and check their basements.

All of these things can be shown in small scale, and then discussed in 
large scale.  It's good to make them aware on a small scale what can 
happen.  Show them things to wow them, they really haven't seen too much 
(so anything you can show is good).

You  can take these are far as you'd like.  Each can be a separate 
module (day) or you can do a lot of small things in one day.  It just 
depends on what they want to do.  They have lots of equipment (monitors, 
etc...), and so you can show them limitations on their monitors or how 
they can use their monitors to do things.  It depends on what they have 
available, what you have available, and how much time you are willing to 
spend.  You may simply just have enough time to show them hazards at 
your university - that's fair.  Anything you show them will help them.

Thanks and good luck with this.  Let me know if you have questions on 
any of the things I have put here.  There of course are lots more, but I 
think this is enough off topic material to get things going.


Ralph Stuart wrote:
> We have been working with the local city Fire Department on emergency 
> planning for laboratories at UVM fairly intensively for about 1.5 
> years, since a lab fire here in May of 2007. This work has included 
> development of a variety of information tools, meetings and joint 
> training with command staff, and one general "introduction to 
> laboratory hazards" training for all firefighters last January.
> The last item was well-received enough that the Fire Department is 
> interested in repeating it this coming January, at a more advanced 
> level. I am thinking about using some of their familiar hazmat 
> response tools (ALOHA, CAMEO, etc.) adapted to a lab setting (with 
> many limitations acknowledged), along with UVM specific information to 
> develop scenarios for tabletop type exercises.
> I wonder if anyone on DCHAS-L has used these tools in this way before 
> or has similar experience they'd like to share as we think about the 
> best way of approaching this "advanced" training for lab response.
> Thanks for any information.
> - Ralph
> Ralph Stuart, CIH
> Environmental Safety Manager
> University of Vermont
> Environmental Safety Facility
> 667 Spear St. Burlington, VT  05405
> rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**
> fax: (802)656-8682

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