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Opinion

First responders’ hazmat training is critical

William E. Offerman
William E. Offerman

From house fires to spills, Chicago’s first responders need to be ready for anything. Accidents involving the release of hazardous materials are rare, but for the first responders who put their lives on the line every day to protect their communities, the right training ahead of time can make a big difference.

Because of limited resources and tightening budgets, many cities are faced with tough decisions when it comes to picking the right training. Thankfully, that decision was made easier for first responders in the Chicago area when it comes to getting the training they need to prepare for incidents involving hazardous materials. That’s because a national training tour recently came through town to provide local first responders with hands-on safety training to help them mitigate and stop a hazmat incident. A first responder needs to know what is in a railcar or tanker truck involved in a crash and how to contain the damage to minimize any effect to the surrounding community. That’s where the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response training program can help.

This program has been providing important training and potentially life-saving information to first responders, emergency management teams and communities across the country since 1986. Nothing is more effective than hands-on training and knowledge sharing, which TRANSCAER provides by tapping the knowledge of experts in the chemical and transportation industries. Through this invaluable program and others like it, more than three million emergency responders have learned how to help prevent, plan for and respond to a hazmat accident. The training gave our local first responders the knowledge to contain hazmat incidents from large to small, including accidents with large shipments involving rail tank cars and smaller shipments of individual cylinders on trucks.

Thanks to the cooperation of many industries involved in moving hazardous materials – including railroads, chemical producers and distributors, trade associations and those of us first responders who likely will be the first to assess an accident – this training program is free. Although the training is best taught in person, for those that can’t attend, free accident response training videos are available online for anhydrous ammoniachlorine and ethanol.

This type of training will go a long way in helping make sure Chicago’s first responders and the communities they serve are prepared in the rare event that something goes wrong.

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