Approximately 80% of fire-protection services within the United States are composed of volunteers or are combination departments. These departments’ members often face training barriers, including a lack of time, access and resources for education adequate to ensure they stay current on trends and issues related to dangerous and hazardous materials.
With the increase in development and use of alternative energy sources, training is absolutely necessary on the new hazards responders face every day. Emergency responders at the federal, state and local levels in volunteer and career fire departments, law enforcement and private industry must be operationally aligned to deal with incidents involving new energies entering the nation’s transportation system.
However, these new technologies, not unlike the old hazards, place a significant burden on responders’ abilities to be educated and trained on the various hazards they face in the community. Nevertheless, volunteers and members of combination departments must be trained according to the competencies laid out in NFPA 472, Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents, in accordance with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s adoption of NFPA 472.
Taking any training course today takes time, and the IAFC and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recognizes that time is very valuable in the fire and emergency service. So together they’ve developed a first-of-its-kind online training program for working with hazardous materials. The Hydrogen Fuels Training is an NFPA 472 awareness-level program for all emergency responders.
The main focus of this online hydrogen-training course is to train hazmat responders; it’s free for firefighters who otherwise might not have the opportunity to gain this type of learning due to today’s economy and busy life styles.
The success of this program will help achieve the long-term goal of having NFPA-compliant training online, providing all firefighters with access to a valuable certified-learning experience at a fraction of the usual cost.
This new program can be accessed through the Electronic Learning Community portal and opens the door to new training opportunities. The portal is designed to be interactive and contains timely information relevant to the topic of hydrogen-response considerations.
The IAFC will provide the portal to take this class and measure the success of the training while also marketing and performing outreach for the newly developed training approach.
Richard Miller is a subject-matter expert working in the IAFC’s National Programs department.