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Ricin Toxic Effects

Everything to Know About Ricin’s Toxic Effects

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, Uncategorized

Have you ever stopped to wonder how exactly toxic chemicals are introduced and produced into the world? The production and manufacturing of chemicals will vary per chemical(s), some may be engineered and produced, while others will actually come from other sources such as plants and beans that can be utilized to create this lethal toxic chemical. Among the list of toxic agents, one agent that can be fairly hazardous and is even classified as a warfare agent is Ricin – a toxic agent that is found naturally in castor beans that can be found in multiple forms making it a highly volatile agent to be exposed to in the environment.

In this article we are going to discuss the dangers of ricin including the effects of ricin on the human body, symptoms that ricin can ignite, and how ricin can be effectively neutralized if it is released into the environment through an accident or even a potential attack.

What is Ricin

What is RicinDid you know that the smallest dose of ricin (as small as 500 micrograms) have been known to be a lethal dose to humans? This powerful agent is a highly toxic agent that will drastically effect cell function in the human body upon exposure, ingestion, or inhalation. The agent ricin is a poison that is found naturally in the environment, specifically in castor beans that produce this agent. If a castor bean is chewed or swallowed it will release ricin into the human body that can cause injury and other dangerous effects.

Generally, ricin can be found in many different forms including powder, a mist, or a pellet – it can even be dissolved into water or weak acid. When it comes to the exposure risks of ricin in everyday life, the chances of exposure or poisoning of ricin is very unlikely – unless you ingested castor beans, or a deliberate act of ricin production occurred that was exposed to a large volume of people such as an attack. If an attack occurs where ricin is used as a warfare agent, this agent can be exposed to the environment through the air, food, and even water – making this agent a highly dangerous agent that can be used for potential attacks on civilization.

What is Ricin Made From

Ricin originates from the plant species, Castor Oil Plant that is the sole member of the genus Ricinus that is a native plant to the Ethiopian region of Africa due to its strong growth in tropical, warm climates. The castor oil plant has even made its way into the United States and is abundant in the southwest U.S. where there are warm climates. The beans of this plant can be dangerous as they contain ricin in the bean pulp following the parting of the oil from the beans. The oil that is made from the castor plant, however, does not contain ricin because it is inactivated while extraction is performed under heated conditions.

This agent can also be found in medicines used in the United States, from laxatives to cancer experimental medicine but in very small doses that are not lethal. Medical researchers had hoped at one point in time to use ricin in cancer medication to specifically target and attack cancer cells in the body – but it was determined that this would be too dangerous to be used in the human body.

Ricin Effects: What Does it Do to the Body?

What Does Ricin Do to the BodyAs we discussed, ricin is a very potent toxin that can be extremely harmful to human health if exposure or inhalation/ingestion occurs in the environment. The smallest amount of ricin that is exposed to the human body can be potentially deadly – demonstrating the strength of this agent to human health. If a person is exposed to ricin it can be classified as ricin poisoning which is an infectious disease that cannot be spread from person to person.

Ricin will enter into the body and impact the human cells, which will prohibit the cells from making the protein that is needed within the body. If your body cannot produce proteins, then this will lead to the demise and destruction of the cells which can be deadly to human health. However, the effects of ricin on the human body can depend greatly on the way that the ricin entered into the body, either through ingestion, inhalation, or injection.

Ricin Symptoms

When it comes to toxin exposure in the environment, the severity and symptoms that can be produced from the agent will vary greatly on the route of exposure, the amount of the toxin ingested into the body, and how long exposure to this agent occurred for in the environment. Upon exposure to ricin the initial symptoms that will take place will occur quite early, usually within 4 to 8 hours of exposure. Whether you inhaled, ingested, or adsorbed this agent into the body the symptoms can vary as follows:

  • Ingestion – When you swallow a significant amount of ricin, usually through the consumption of caster beans, you will begin to experience symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea that have the potential to turn bloody. This will be followed by dehydration which will turn into low blood pressure in the body. Seizures, blood in the urine, and the shutdown of organs in the body will also be symptoms that occur from ingestion.
  • Inhalation – When ricin is inhaled into the human body in significant amounts there will be a bout of symptoms that follow such as respiratory issues, difficulty breathing, fever, cough, nausea, and tightness in the chest. Overall, breathing will be very difficult because an excess of fluid in the lungs will gather and lead to respiratory failure.
  • Absorption into the Skin & Eyes – Absorption of ricin into the skin is a highly unlikely route of exposure to occur, however, contact with ricin powders can cause redness and pain within the skin and the eyes. If you touch ricin that is on your skin and then eat food with your hands after it will lead to ingestion of this agent into the human body.

Neutralizing a Ricin Attack

Ricin agents can be utilized as a potential warfare agent that can be a great hazard to environmental and public health to those areas that are exposed to this toxic agent. The chemical agent ricin is a toxic protein that comes from the castor oil plant and it is classified as a carbohydrate binding protein that is very toxic and is comprised of amino acids – therefore it contains many amine and carbonyl and carboxyl groups that need to be neutralized if ricin is used in an attack.

FAST-ACT is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance specialty materials that are effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability of destroying chemical warfare agents. The FAST-ACT technology works with the amino acids found in ricin to react with the agent to effectively neutralize the toxin from the environment. Various amino acids have a side chain that contains other elements and functional groupings that would be reactive with FAST ACT under the right conditions.

Neutralizing a Ricin Attack

Types of Spill Kits for Chemical Decontamination

Understanding the Different Types of Spill Kits for Chemical Decontamination

By | chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

Chemical spills can occur, and they can happen quickly, with little time to act in response to this incident. Depending on the environment, most spaces that contain the use or storing of hazardous chemicals must have a spill kit for chemical decontamination present for easy-to-use deployment. Laboratories, factories, and even schools that utilize potentially dangerous chemicals within their environment typically have in place chemical spill procedures and decontamination solutions at the ready to use, but are these currently used methods that they utilize for chemical decontamination the most efficient and useful solution?

There have been recent reports of many issues within chemical transportation and spills that have occurred from these sources of chemicals. If a spill occurs from this source, it can impact large areas and compromise the environment for those people exposed to the released chemical. When you are left dealing with larger spills such as from a transportation of chemicals, a traditional A-B-C Spill Kit will be hard to implement to decontaminate the chemicals – and thus they must be prepared for a chemical decontamination solution that can quickly assist during this large spill.

In this article we are going to discuss the different types of spill kits that are currently used for chemical decontamination and explore alternative methods of decontamination for chemical spills and releases.

What is a Chemical Spill

What is a Chemical SpillChemicals can be very useful for a broad array of different functions, however, there is also an inherent hazard to these chemicals, particularly when they are not properly controlled, or if an accident occurs such as a release or a spill of these chemicals. The use of chemicals is implemented in many workplaces from industrial plants, laboratories, agriculture, and even sometimes in office environments. When an incident occurs, however, resulting in a spill or release of the chemical into the environment it can lead to significant effects to the environment and to the health of those exposed to this released chemical.

There are two different classified types of chemical spills, minor (simple) spills and major (complicated) spills. A minor spill is one that a person can easily clean-up such as a non-hazardous chemical that is spilled onto the floor. These spills are typically small, confined, and present minimal hazards within the environment. A major chemical spill will usually result in the immediate evacuation of the area, and potentially the whole affected building. This will be the result of a hazardous chemical that is spilled in large quantities in the environment – this will be a high level of danger to those people exposed to this spill or release of chemicals.

What to do When a Chemical Spill Occurs

The release or spill of a chemical into the environment can be something that happens quickly and unexpectantly and will force individuals in the area to respond rapidly and most important, acting effectively to mitigate and decontaminate this chemical spill. If you are in an environment that stores and handles chemicals like a laboratory, there will be a specific list of procedures and guidelines set in place in the event that a chemical spill does occur unexpectantly. These procedures and guidelines will provide a detailed list of what to do during a chemical spill, and these procedures will also be accompanied by a stocked chemical spill kit that can be implemented to decontaminate the released chemical in the environment.

A spill kit is a chemical response kit that includes several different items that are needed to properly contain and clean up a chemical spill or release. There are a variety of different types of spill kits that are available for use in laboratories or other environments with chemicals. Chemical spill kits will contain multiple kinds of absorbents, pads, rolls, and mats to help contain smaller spills. Typically spill kits come in three different types, a universal kit, an oil-only kit, and a HAZMAT kit.

Where Should Spill Kits be Located?

The location in which a spill kit is stored and located is vital when responding to a chemical spill – as many times time is of the essence when the chemical is released. The items in a spill kit should be stored in a container that is large enough for the spill and is protected with the appropriate material. Chemical spill kits are ineffective if they are kept in an area that is not easily accessible such as in a remote area, in a hidden closet, or if the employees in the environment do not know where the kit is located. In reality, the ideal location for a spill kit is near an area where the chemicals are used and stored within the environment.

Methods of Decontamination

Methods of DecontaminationWhen it comes to a chemical spill or release, there are many factors that you must consider before attempting the process of decontamination. There is a wide range of chemicals that are manufactured and used every day, and all of these chemicals will consist of a different chemical structure and will thus need to be identified to properly mitigate and decontaminate from the environment. Therefore, having some knowledge of the different chemicals that are used in your environment and knowing how to decontaminate each will help to efficiently and rapidly decontaminate the chemical. The use of chemical spill kits is among the most popular methods of decontamination, especially for small chemical spills. However, spill kits can provide some issues to the situation as well, as it will not cover all the necessary decontamination needs that are required for larger or more hazardous spills. Spill kits will not provide personal protective equipment (PPE), brooms, drain covers, and spill dikes that can be essential when responding to a chemical spill.

How to Use Spill Kits for Chemicals

Chemical spill kits for unplanned and potentially dangerous chemicals can be used and implemented in certain situations such as a small chemical release of an unhazardous chemical, a small chemical release of a hazardous chemical, and any spill that can be easily cleaned up and decontaminated. If your environment does contain chemicals it is important to take inventory of these chemicals, the amount of them, and where they are located within this space.

After you have identified a chemical spill, you will need to go through the procedures to properly utilize a chemical spill kit. Evaluating the type of chemical that has been released into the environment is first and foremost, identifying the chemical will help to determine the best course of action in mitigating the chemical that was spilled. Arm yourself with the proper protective clothing gear to handle the situation. After you are protected with the right gear you can contain the liquid spill and stop the source of the spill, whether it was a seal drain or leak. Once the source has been stopped you can begin to clean-up the chemical and/or contact hazmat professionals to aid in the removal of the chemical – this will be the case when you are left with a large chemical spill of a classified hazardous chemical.

How to Respond to a Chemical Spill – FAST-ACT

A chemical spill can be in many different forms including gas, liquid, solid, fumes, dust, fibers, or vapors. The type of spill that is released can vary based on the environment and what type of chemical was spilled into the area. It will be hard to find a decontamination solution that can be effective against these different types of chemical spills, as a typical chemical spill kit will prove to be ineffective against a variety of these different chemical forms.

FAST-ACT (First Applied Sorbent Treatment – Against Chemical Threats) is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic nano-materials that are effective for neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents. The FAST-ACT technology comes in a variety of different deployment mechanisms including pressurized cylinders and powder pails for an effective chemical decontamination of both liquid and vapor chemical threats.

FAST-ACT chemical decontamination products make it simple and effective to rapidly respond to a variety of chemical threats, with no need to identify the chemical before use which can help drastically to minimize the potential effects of the chemical spill in the environment. This is a critical component for hazmat and emergency response officials, as well as those employees who need to quickly respond to an unintentional chemical spill.

How to Respond to a Chemical Spill

How to Dispose of an Acid Leaking Car Battery

How to Dispose of an Acid Leaking Car Battery

By | chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

There are many different items that we come across every day, either in the stuff that we use or within environments that we are exposed to that possess potentially dangerous components that could be harmful upon exposure to humans. Whether it be the risks you face on a construction site job where you are exposed to dangerous machinery, the risks of being a firefighter coming across unknown chemical substances that could be potentially deadly, or even an unfortunate release and exposure to acid from a leaking car battery.

Car batteries are components of a vehicle that contain an amalgam of potentially hazardous chemicals within its construction that can be dangerous if released into the environment. What can happen when the acid in car batteries begins leaking within an environment and how can you protect human health from these potentially dangerous compounds in car batteries?

Below we are going to discuss the steps to take to neutralize battery acid leaks and learn more about the identifying characteristics of battery acid leaks.

What is Battery Acid?

Battery acid is identified as sulfuric acid that has been diluted with water to reach a concentration level of 37 percent. This specific level of concentration is mainly utilized in sealed lead acid batteries, with slight variations to the level of concentration depending on the brand. A combination of lead plates and an electrolyte – with sulphuric acid used, are combined to convert electrical energy into potential chemical energy and back again. Although this amalgam of compounds allows us to have portable power, the actual acid can be extremely dangerous.

Battery acid, in comparison to other types of batteries, are rather unique – as they carry not only ionic currents, but it also reacts as an active material with both electrodes to produce lead sulfate as a discharge product. When an acid battery is broken down it will produce hydrogen and oxygen gas into the environment that can be explosive under certain specific conditions.

Battery Acid: What Does it Do

The sulfuric acid that is used within battery acid is commonly used in a variety of different applications throughout different branches of the national economy. Battery acid is used to help clean metal surfaces before the coating process, it also is used as a component in the production of synthetic dyes. This acid is very strong, however, and can also be utilized in fertilizer production, the creation of explosives, in the pharmacology industry, and in oil refining.

Sulfuric acid is one of the most important industrial chemicals – that is increasingly made each year and is among the most manufactured chemical made with 40 tons or more produced in the United States. However, the use of this chemical in certain capacities such as in car batteries can potentially be dangerous if a leak occurs in an environment where humans are exposed.

Is Battery Acid Dangerous?

Is Battery Acid Dangerous?There are many ways in which a battery, particularly an acid battery can be dangerous to human health. When you are handling or dealing with batteries it is important to always stay vigilant during this time. The misuse or misapplication of a battery for anything other than its designed purpose can lead to potentially hazardous results. When batteries are utilized in other capacities aside from its intended purpose it will be more likely to leak or vent dangerous chemicals.

When a battery acid leak occurs, it can result in dangerous effects to both the environment and on those exposed to the chemical leak. Depending on the conditions present in the environment such as poor ventilation or limited space, the fumes that can become produced from a battery acid can taint the air and upon inhalation/ingestion could lead to altering effects on health.

What Does Battery Acid Look Like

When it comes to identifying battery acid, whether from a potential leak or clean-up project, there are certain key characteristics to be on the lookout for in the environment. These indicators of battery acid include the following:


Battery acid usually appears as a prominent oily dark color with translucent properties.

Signs of Corrosion

Battery acid is a very strong chemical compound that can be aggressive when leaked onto surfaces. A sign of battery acid will be appearances of corrosion on a surface – specifically with contact to other metals.

What Does Battery Acid Smell Like

The smell produced from battery acid will occur due to damage to the battery or a potential leak of the battery from improper application. When battery acid produces an odor, it will vary for each person – as each individual will smell different scents produced from battery acid. However, a very commonly identified smell from battery acid is that of sulfur. Sulfur odor is compared to that of ‘rotten egg’ smell.

Health Effects from Battery Acid Burns

The potential risks and health effects of battery acid exposure can vary depending on the length of exposure, how you are exposed to the acid, and the amount of exposure that occurred. Battery acid is a solution of sulfuric acid and water diluted – which means the dilution reduces the strength of the acid. If, however, the sulfuric acid was exposed to human flesh undiluted it would result in immediate burning of human tissues and other organic materials.

Battery acid is still, however, an irritant that can affect both the skin and lungs. If battery acid is left on the skin, it will eventually cause irritation and itching and should be washed off after exposure. Whereas if you inhale the fumes from the acid it can potentially lead to respiratory issues upon inhalation.

How to Neutralize Battery Acid

The frightful experience of dealing with any sort of acid spill will leave firefighters and hazmat officials quickly acting in response to this dangerous situation. Neutralization is the most common method or solution implemented onto this type of hazardous corrosive spill. Typically, during corrosive spills, it will require soda ash to implement onto the large spill. The soda ash needs to be diluted with water and then added to the spill for neutralization. However, depending on the chemical that is in question – whether it is an acid, organic compound, or any type of hazardous chemical agent, it will be necessary to identify the chemical before applying a neutralization solution.

Battery Acid Neutralizer

FAST-ACT is an all-in-one chemical neutralization solution that can be readily applied to a variety of different chemical agents including as a battery acid neutralizer. The FAST-ACT products can be applied in multiple ways for an acid spill or attack. For liquid spills, the FAST-ACT powder can be rapidly applied to the liquid to contain and neutralize the acid. FAST-ACT pressurized cylinders can be dispensed to suppress vapors, contain liquid, and decon responder equipment, interior spaces, contents, and equipment.

Overall, FAST-ACT is essential due to the increased number of acid spills, leaks and attacks, and the variety of chemistries used makes FAST-ACT an essential neutralization solution for rapid response without the need for complex decisions when times for mistakes cannot be made.

Battery Acid Neutralizer

The Dangers of Hydrofluoric Acid

The Dangers of Hydrofluoric Acid

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

The dangerous world of chemicals can present many hazards to the environment and even to those exposed to the toxic chemical structure found in the enclosed space. The list of chemicals that are found in the world is a long, extensive list and among this list will be several toxic, if not deadly chemicals especially when exposure to these chemicals occurs to individuals. Chemicals can be found anywhere, they can be found in some foods we eat, products we use on our bodies, and even found in the earth in the ground – the reality is that chemicals are almost unavoidable.

Hydrofluoric acid, although not a common chemical found in the environment and conversely not one that we are exposed to often, is a chemical that can have potentially devastating consequences when exposure occurs, particularly in large quantities. This chemical has a complex chemical structure that makes it a highly toxic substance to humans like emergency personnel and others that may become exposed to it in an environment.

What is hydrofluoric acid, where does it come from, and how can you protect yourself from this potentially volatile chemical in the environment? 

What is Hydrofluoric Acid?

What is Hydrofluoric AcidHydrofluoric acid is an inorganic chemical compound that is highly corrosive with many industrial and commercial uses. The chemical itself is a clear, colorless chemical that has a number of physical, chemical, and toxicological properties that make it very hazardous to handle. This compound is an acid that differs greatly from other acids because it uses fluoride ions that readily penetrates the skin and will lead to significant destruction of tissue layers deep in the body down to the bone. Similar to other acids, it has the potential to cause significant burning depending on the concentration of the chemical, the temperature, and the duration of contact on the skin.

As this acid is released into the air as a vapor, the chemical will taint the air and impact those who are exposed to this toxic vaporized chemical. The hydrofluoric acid will produce pungent fumes into the air and due to its corrosive properties, it will have the potential to cause deep tissue damage and complete toxicity.

What is Hydrofluoric Acid Used For

There are several different uses for hydrofluoric acid that may surprise you to learn. This chemical is used in solution form in both glass and metal etching, industrial and home cleaners, and even in manufactured electronics. The full-strength hydrofluoric acid is used in the construction and manufacturing of high-octane fuels in oil refineries. Mainly though, the chemical is used in the manufacturing process to make refrigerants. Other uses for the chemical will include the following:

  • Propellants and solvents
  • Insecticide and fertilizer production
  • Manufacture and reduction of chlorides
  • Brewery to control fermentation
  • Fabric industry for stain removal
  • Leather industry for tanning
  • Drug and dye production

The potential items and places that hydrofluoric acid may be present within can be astonishing to many people. Therefore, if you are surrounded by these different areas listed above where the chemical can be found in it is important to be vigilant and prepared in the event exposure occurs in the environment, both acute and significant exposure.

What Does Hydrofluoric Acid Smell LikeHydrofluoric Acid: What Does it Smell Like

The many dangerous components of hydrofluoric acid include its corrosive abilities, its colorless appearance, and sometimes discrete odor that is not detectable in the air. The chemical does have an odor that will be noticeable but not right away in the air of the environment. The smell of the acid is a strong, irritating odor that will be followed by symptoms of severe injury to the skin and eyes, inhalation and ingestion irritation. It is also worth noting that hydrofluoric acid can be emitted into the environment in the form of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride and it will appear in the space with a strong harsh odor that will form a dense white vapor cloud into the air when released, this will be very hazardous to human health.

Dangers of Hydrofluoric Acid to Human Health

Did you know that hydrofluoric acid is one of the most dangerous inorganic acids? A trace amount of exposure to this chemical on the skin, as small as 1 percent of body surface area burns could be fatal due to the acid’s corrosive properties. The chemical known as HF has the ability to penetrate the skin tissues deep to the bone – it penetrates more quickly than any other typical acid. The exposure to this chemical can occur in several different mechanisms from dermal, ocular, inhalation, and oral routes into the body. As it enters into the body the human tissue will risk exposure and the fluoride ions will quickly penetrate the dermal and muscle tissues and react with both magnesium and calcium in the body – this will place major organs in danger such as the heart, liver, kidneys, and nerves. In the event that a large quantity of hydrogen fluoride is present in the air, and exposure occurs either from skin contact or inhalation, it can result in death from either an irregular heartbeat or from fluid buildup in the lungs.

Dangers of Hydrofluoric Acid to Human Health

Hydrofluoric Acid Inhalation Poisoning Symptoms

The toxicity that can result from exposure and inhalation from hydrofluoric acid can vary depending on the type of exposure and how much concentration is present in the environment. The symptoms of hydrofluoric acid exposure can include the following:

  • Skin Contact: Hydrofluoric acid produced fluoride ions that are ready to penetrate the skin upon contact and will cause destruction of deep layers of tissue. The destruction of tissues can occur for several days on the skin, if the chemical is not treated. The symptoms that someone will feel as the chemical destroys the tissues on the skin includes severe burning pain, discoloration of the skin, and blistering.
  • Eye Contact: The chemical hydrofluoric acid when released into the air and vaporized will cause significant health symptoms in those who are exposed to the chemical. The symptoms will include severe eye irritation, burning eyes, and potentially the destruction of the cornea – which will result in blindness if not treated quickly.
  • Inhalation: Coughing, chocking, tightness in the chest, chills, fever, and blue skin can all be a result of inhalation of hydrofluoric acid. The vapors that are released from this chemical into the air can result in health conditions that will ignite the symptoms above, these conditions include laryngospasm, bronchospasm, and pulmonary edema.

Treatment for Hydrofluoric Acid Spill Exposure

The treatment plan for those who have been exposed to HF chemical will vary depending on the level of exposure and the concentration of the chemical present within the environment. Any and all victims should be sent to an emergency facility to receive the proper treatment methods. The standard treatments that should be implemented to those with acute exposure should include EKG monitoring, O2, and prophylactic eye and breathing treatments. Whereas severe exposure should be monitored very closely and extensively.

What Neutralizes Hydrofluoric Acid?

Due to the extreme toxicity and corrosive nature of HF, any spill of this acid must be cleaned up with great care. The most commonly used practices for containing and neutralizing the hydrofluoric acid spill includes dilution with water, containment using polypropylene pad, or Vermiculite and Magicsorb. While these methods offer a solution, they also pose an immediate environmental threat ranging from the generation of HF fume and/or by product in the form of a highly toxic gas.

To counter hydrofluoric acid, FAST-ACT offers a proven formulation to contain and neutralize HF spills. FAST-ACT is a dry, solid based sorbent and neutralizer which reacts with the chemical rendering nontoxic by-products. This neutralization technology has the ability to absorb and neutralize the immediate threat of an HF spill providing benefits such as – free HF liquid will be diked and contained, there will be no off-gassing of HF fumes, and it will form a stable end product, a fluoride salt, which can then be handled safely.

Civil Support Team (CST) Response

Civil Support Team (CST) Response

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, chemical spill clean up, terrorist attack preparation, Uncategorized

The growing threat that looms in response to terrorist activities or incidents has exponentially grown over the years. More and more terroristic acts have occurred throughout the world, in what seems to be an alarming rate, has forced the United States to take action in preparation for a potentially heinous act on our Country. Weapons of Mass Destruction are at the forefront of concern for the government and government officials, these weapons pose a tremendous risk to a large population of people and potentially even an entire country, depending on the WMD deployed.

In order to combat these extremely dangerous Weapons of Mass Destruction, the U.S. Government has implemented a number of different measures to enhance the Country’s ability to deter, prevent, respond to, and recover from terrorist activities within the United States. Therefore, the U.S. developed a team called the Civil Support Team (CST) as a high priority response unit supporting civil authorities in responding to a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) situation.

What is a Civil Support Teams ResponsibilitiesWhat is a Civil Support Teams Responsibilities & When Are They Called Upon

The mission of a Civil Support Team is to support civil authorities at a domestic CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosives) incident site with responsibilities such as identification and assessment of hazards, advice to civil authorities, and facilitating the arrival of follow-on military forces during emergencies and incidents.

Each member of the CST provides unique capabilities, expertise, and technologies to assist the governors in preparing for and responding to a CBRN situation. These teams are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for rapid deployment for any response operation. There main mission is consequence management support for an incident or attack involving weapons of mass destruction – this occurs after an incident has happened in the environment or post-incident.

How Many Civil Support Teams are There?

The United States Civil Support Team is designed to support an immediate and quick response to any and all major population centers within the U.S. In total, there are 27 Civil Support Teams that place 90 percent of the country’s population within 250 miles of a team. When stationing these teams there were several factors considered including transportation access, facilities, proximity to airlift, and the closeness to other state and regional planning organizations. These teams are each composed of 22 highly skilled, full-time National Guard members who are federally resourced, trained, and exercised. The Civil Support Team consists of six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical, and survey.

The 27 teams that are composed of Civil Support Teams are located in several states including Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, & Virginia.

Capabilities & Functions of a CST

The Civil Support Team for Weapons of Mass Destruction was/is designed to provide a specialized capability to respond to a CBRNE incident. The teams respond under the authority of the governor and provide both the state and local agencies with any intentional or unintentional release of CBRNE agents or natural disasters. Although CST does provide assistance to large-scale situations and disasters, they also have the capability to respond to and support smaller-scale incidents where specific technical capabilities are required.

The functions associated with Civil Support Teams includes identifying CBRNE agents and substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with appropriate requests for additional support.

Identifying CBRNE Agents and Substances

Identifying CBRNE agents and substances is among the functions conducted by the Civil Support Teams. They use assets to detect, characterize, identifying, and monitor any unknown CBRNE agents & substances. By utilizing multiple detection technologies, the Civil Support Team is able to generate the best possible analysis to identify the agent in the field.

The members of CST utilize sophisticated detection, analytical, and protective equipment that allows them to operate in many different situations involving both TIMs and CBRNE materials. CST also uses some of the highest standard PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), such as Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Levels A & B. These levels of PPE provide members with more extensive protection than the PPE utilized by most military units.

Assessing Current & Projected Consequences

Assessments from the Civil Support Team need to occur prior to, during, and after an incident. These assessments take place with both local, state, and federal response organizations to properly ensure that the CST is successfully integrated with local and state emergency plans. When they undergo assessments, they are able to support both deliberate and crisis action planning for any type of incident.

The Operation Center (OPCEN) for Civil Support teams collect a variety of information that will include valid & appropriate sources, identification of critical & necessary information, and then evaluating the collected information to aid in determining threats – this includes hazards, risks, possible course of actions (COAs), possible targets, potential probability of an attack, etc. Based on the assessments conducted by the Civil Support Team, they will create Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Response Plans for situations.

Advising on Response Measures

The Civil Support Team after utilizing the identification & assessment results, will than advise the incident commander (IC) and those emergency responders on the potential hazards and countermeasures associated with both the intentional and unintentional release of CBRNE or natural disasters that could result in catastrophic lost. When advising on response measures the CST will cover the key methods for protecting and mitigating potential loss of life, damage to critical infrastructures, and/or extensive property damage to private property. Emergency response implements this advice to assist emergency responders and authorities to tailor their actions to minimize the impact of an event.

Assisting with Appropriate Requests for Additional State/Federal Support

The last function of CST is to provide assistance to the IC by giving input on the capabilities and utilization of assets that are currently gathered at the incident. The Civil Support Team offers an extensive background, specialized training, and scope of liaison between local, state, and federal agencies – and because of this they provide a much larger view of the specific assets and capabilities available to emergency responders.

Civil Support Team Training / Equipment

The training required for a Civil Support Team member consists of both military and civilian emergency response training. These trainings and instructions are provided from several DOD schools, and agencies like FEMA, DOJ, EPA, and DOE. Altogether the members of CST will receive more than 600 hours of high-tech training with topics covering planning, management, individual and collective training, goals, doctrinal aspects of training programs and how they relate to Civil Support Teams.

A Civil Support Team is equipped with high-end detection, analytical, and protective equipment, as well as satellite, secure and cellular communications to provide communication with both civil and military forces. They are required to maintain PPE that are far more intricate than those PPE provided to military members.

Chemical Decontamination Equipment

Chemical Decontamination EquipmentChemical weapons contain chemical agents or materials intended to kill or severely hurt a group of people. Terrorists have already showcased their capability to use chemical weapons in a terroristic act against their enemies, and therefore preparation for these types of attacks is vital for Civil Support Teams.

In part of preparing for this type of situation, it is necessary to have on hand a chemical decontamination solution equipment to aid in the neutralization of a chemical agent deployment. FAST-ACT is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance materials that are effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents. The FAST-ACT technology works quickly to reduce hazards associated with common industrial chemicals including acids, acidic/caustic gases, organic compounds, phosphorous and sulfur compounds, and many industrial solvents.

FAST-ACT is provided in a variety of applications including pressurized cylinders for liquid and vapor hazards, manually dispersed containers, kits for liquid hazard treatment, and mitts for equipment and small-scale decontamination. Best of all, FAST-ACT can be applied to any liquid spill or vapor release enabling Emergency Responders to utilize one technology when faced with a wide variety of known or unknown chemical hazards.

HOW TO HazMat Tactical Technician

How to: Hazmat Tactical Technician

By | chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

Hazardous materials teams are constructed in each state, sometimes in several different cities to provide citizens with an experienced team to handle any sort of hazardous material incident that has taken place within the area. The primary goal of a HazMat team is to provide the local area assistance in an emergency situation involving hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction. The assistance provided by a HazMat team can take several different forms depending on the incident on hand and how severe it is to the environment and public health.

A HazMat team is composed of an organized group of individuals who are trained specifically to handle hazardous materials incidents, with each member contributing different skill-sets to the operation. Included within this organized group are individuals called Hazardous Materials Technicians.

What is a HazMat Tactical TechnicianWhat is a HazMat Tactical Technician

Hazardous Materials Technicians are trained individuals who are taught to respond to a hazardous materials emergency in an offensive fashion. Their primary role is to stop or control a spill or release by approaching the point of the release using specialized PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). When a HazMat team responds to a chemical spill, the Hazmat Technicians are typically members of the responding HazMat team, often times they are referred to as Spill Response Teams or Emergency Response Teams.

These emergency responders are there to respond to both emergency and non-emergency calls. HazMat technicians are technically trained and skilled to respond to, mitigate, prevent, and at times clean-up hazardous materials and/or chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction incidents.

What Does a HazMat Technician Do?

Ultimately, these individuals are there to respond to emergencies that involve dangerous substances that can potentially be life-threatening within an environment. When a technician responds to an incident, they are responsible for identifying the hazardous materials and deciding how best to dispose of them. Some of the commonly handled materials that these technicians handle includes asbestos, lead, mercury, mold, radioactive waste, and nuclear waste.

HazMat Technicians also need to have a basic understanding of chemistry, since they are responsible for identifying substances, they have to know the chemical, physical, and toxic properties of the materials. Without this knowledge they will be unable to determine the safest method to removing, transporting, and disposing of this hazardous materials and waste.

The risks posed to those who work as a HazMat Technician can be significant, thus it is necessary for them to take precautions while working. Wearing appropriate protective clothing is essential, as these dangerous substances can be extremely harmful to human exposure.

What are the Three Levels of Hazardous Response

Hazardous materials response is identified by three different levels; Level 1, Level 2, & Level 3. Response organizations have established a “tiered response plan” to help organize the severity of an incident. Each level is represented by individuals and/or groups of people and their level of training, expertise, capability, and equipment/resources.

What are the Three Levels of Hazardous Response

Level 1

A level 1 incident is one that involves hazardous materials that can be contained, extinguished, and/or stopped using resources immediately available to public first responders. These incidents are low risk and present little hazard to the environment and/or public health, especially during containment or cleanup.

This level is usually classified as minor situations with the capabilities of first responders that are trained at the operational level to be able to handle the situation. Typically, a level 1 incident involves either the release of a small amount of gas, liquid, or solid of an identified hazardous material. This operational level first responders contain both the expertise and proper equipment to safely mitigate these incidents.

A level 1 is progressed to the next level, level 2, when a release or potential release of an unknown hazardous material or suspected hazardous material occurs.

Level 2

A classified level 2 incident is one that involves hazardous materials that are beyond the capabilities of first responders on the scene of the incident. These types of incidents range from a small incident involving any amount of an unknown substance to a large incident involving multiple agencies and jurisdictions.

Level 2 incidents are declared by the Incident Commander and the Initial Response Team – for instance, if the incident scene contains a sufficient quantity of gas, liquid, or a solid that is a known hazardous substance and/or any quantity of an unknown material that has been released. Control zones should be established and maintained early into the response of the incident, and these zones should be evaluated and monitored throughout the entire incident.

Examples of a level 2 HazMat incident includes a major gas leak due to a puncture of a large tank, a vehicle or train fire involving hazardous waste, chemical releases that pose a moderate threat to the environment, and suspicious packages that contain an unknown material.

Level 3 Hazmat ResponseLevel 3

Lastly, a level 3 incident involves hazardous materials that are beyond the capabilities of a single state or regional response team. This type of classified incident may be quite lengthy in duration and may require large-scale evacuations. When multiple agencies and jurisdictions are involved it is likely to be labeled a level 3 hazardous material response. Many times, during a level 3 incident, resources from private sectors including chemical manufacturers and voluntary organizations are utilized to control the scene.

Examples of a level 3 incident includes a large release from tank cars, incidents involving large-scale evacuations, any incident beyond local capabilities and resources, major leaks, and large-scale or catastrophic releases of hazardous materials.

Hazardous Materials vs Chemicals

In hazardous situations, it is important to recognize that any incident can involve chemicals. Although the regular use of “hazardous materials” throughout the HazMat community, the term “chemical” is a more appropriate term. As a result, the misconception among first responders is that many chemicals that are found in the incident scene are not a problem because they are not a “hazardous material”. However, that is far from the truth, as the potential hazards present to the environment and public health from the results of chemicals can be significant and sometimes even deadly.

All chemical products have some dangerous characteristics that first responders must be prepared to investigate further. In some cases, chemicals can be the original source of the incident, either through an accidental release, mishandling, or a planned chemical attack.

HazMat Response to Chemical Incidents

When HazMat personnel come across an incident involving chemicals, there will be a few tell-tale signs such as a detectable odor, visually observable characteristics, and reactions from those individuals exposed to the chemical in the air. In the process of containing and decontaminating a chemical release or incident, Technical decon is established by the HazMat team exiting the hot zone. Technical decontamination involves the use of a “corridor” with a gross contaminant reduction section followed by a series of wash-and-rinse stations. Once the HazMat tactical technicians have secured the area, they will need to perform an effective decontamination of the chemical(s) present.

FAST-ACT (First Applied Sorbent Treatment – Against Chemical Threats) is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic nano-materials effective for neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents. Chemical spills can be in the form of a gas, liquid, solid, fumes, dust, fibers, or vapors. Depending on the type of chemical spill present, HazMat and first responders must choose the correct method to apply to decontaminate the spill. FAST-ACT, however, is able to decontaminate a broad spectrum of chemical spills, from liquid to vapor releases through a wide range of product offerings.

The FAST-ACT technology is effective against a wide range of toxic chemicals including:

  • Acids
  • Halogenated Compounds
  • Phosphorous Compounds
  • Acidic and Caustic Gases
  • Organic Compounds
  • Chemical Warfare Agents

Therefore, FAST-ACT will be the desired decontamination solution for chemical spill clean-ups, as it can be safely applied to any liquid spill or vapor release enabling Emergency Responders to utilize one technology when faced with a variety of known or unknown chemical hazards.

Chemical Decontamination for Hazmat Tactical Technicians

Does Your Fire Department Have a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)

Does Your Fire Department Have a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, Uncategorized

Fire departments are often tasked with handling emergency activities that can present to the responding firefighters a varying degree of risk and danger depending on the situation at hand. Rapid intervention teams (RIT), rapid intervention companies (RIC), and firefighter assist and search teams (FAST) all serve the same purpose to fire departments. They are there to facilitate their fellow firefighters who have become lost, trapped, or injured during a responding incident. The potential possibilities that may undergo a fire department upon a responding call can be dangerous and downright deadly. Sometimes incidents will occur that leaves a firefighter trapped or lost in an environment while on scene of an incident. When a frightening situation like that happens the RIT or FAST is called to be of service and aid in the issue present to the responding fire department and firefighters.

What are the responsibilities of the Rapid Intervention Team and why is it important to integrate (RIT) or (FAST) within your fire department? Find out by reading down below!

What is a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)What is a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)

Rapid intervention team is a team of two or more firefighters that are solely dedicated to the search and rescue of other firefighters in danger or distress. Many fire departments spend quite a bit of time on training rapid intervention teams (RITs) and a lot of information has been presented via websites and magazines on different tools and techniques that go along with the overall RIT operations.

This type of team is a critical fireground function that is needed to be established by clear guidelines that are consistent with the need of the operation and the Incident Commander (IC). A fire departments RIT should be fully equipped with all appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) including protective clothing, gear, SCBA and specialized rescue equipment needed based on the specific operation they are facing at hand.

History of RIT Concept

Fire rescue and the establishment of RIT is not something new for fire departments. Rapid intervention teams can be traced all the way back to 1915 in New York City, where the earliest attempts of forming and organizing a group like RIT came to develop. The concept originated in March 1915, with trapped firefighters in an incident that needed rescuing from the environment. This went on to progress in the late 1960s and early 1970s with London Fire Brigade who developed “Emergency Teams” that were equipped with emergency supplies such as air supply equipment and air transfer lines.

Eventually this formed into the “buddy system” or “two-in/two-out rule” – this requires four people to assemble prior to entry, where two people would remain outside to provide immediate assistance to the two inside if they required support. Ultimately, it was determined that if RIT is not in place or cannot perform in a safe and timely manner, it is possible that firefighters may die or be seriously injured. Thus, the forming of a rapid intervention team is critical for protecting the lives and health of responding firefighters.

RIT responsibilities & toolsRIT Responsibilities & Tools

The importance of assigning responsibilities to RIT members is critical before entering into an incident scene. Outlining a layout of responsibilities should be done through the use of riding assignments. This will help give direction to the responding firefighters as they will know prior to arrival that they will be operating as the RIT on scene, either because they were specifically dispatched as RIT or through department operating guidelines that assigned the RIT to a company based on the arrival order to the area.

When rapid intervention teams arrive at the fireground, the members will gather their equipment and tools while the responding company officers perform a size-up and gets a report from the incident commander (IC). The tools and equipment of RIT will vary from department to department, but the standard minimum tools required includes the following:

  • Radios (every member needs)
  • Flashlights
  • Forcible-entry tools
  • Thermal imaging camera
  • Spare air supply for firefighters in distress

Rapid Intervention Team Equipment

All firefighter trucks and company trucks in the department carry a basic complement of RIT equipment. As we mentioned above, the key pieces of rapid intervention team equipment include a set of irons, a 200’ RIT tagline, a thermal imagining camera, a Scott Pak-Tracker firefighter locator, and an additional RIT air supply. This array of equipment is also carried by the chief and safety chief’s vehicle to ensure that there are adequate supplies of the equipment when arriving to the scene for the first-arriving RIT companies.

RIT equipment is a topic that sparks a lot of talk and discussion. Beyond the basic equipment for rapid intervention teams, the second RIT truck has an entire set of truck company equipment at its disposal if needed by the responding team.

RIT SituationsRIT Situations

The RIT is no place for inexperienced and untrained firefighters, as they are left to deal with extreme situations and circumstances that will require extensive knowledge and experience to conduct an effective solution for the incident. Ultimately, these firefighters should be the best trained, best equipped, psychologically hardened and physically fit individuals to be an effective member of RIT. Each and every RIT situation will be different from the next, and therefore having a seasoned firefighter as part of the RIT will be pertinent to the safety of the environment and the firefighters in distress.

Some of the most common situations that a RIT member must be able to handle include the following:

  • Rescuing firefighters based on a variety of impacts
  • Creating access in all building construction types
  • Performing an incident size-up on their own
  • Read fire behavior and project its movement time
  • Performing team search techniques and deal with problems such as large area searches
  • Competent in thermal imagers to enhance search success
  • Setting up change-overs and utilizing their emergency breathing support systems
  • And dealing with entrapped, entanglements, floor collapses, confined space, above ground level and below ground level rescuing.

Rapid Response to Chemical Releases

Another situation in which a rapid intervention team may respond to is that of a chemical release or spill. Chemical releases can occur from a variety of reasons including laboratory spill, chemical release accident, or even a chemical attack. When a chemical release takes place there will be numerous emergency responders called to the scene of the incident including the police, ambulance, fire department, HAZMAT, and RIT. This type of release can be significantly impactful to an environment and to the individuals present within this environment. Therefore, an excess amount of emergency responders is called to the scene including specialty responders such as HAZMAT and RIT.

Decontaminating a chemical release is a very difficult and time-consuming process that requires extensive knowledge of chemicals to be able to identify the chemical released and the best method to decontaminate this chemical. Typically, identifying a chemical requires detectors and the use of an ABC-spill kit to decontaminate the chemical depending on the specific chemical. Although this process works effectively it can be very time-consuming during an incident that needs immediate action.

FAST-ACT® is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance specialty materials effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents.  The FAST-ACT formulation is non-flammable, non-corrosive, and significantly reduces both liquid and vapor hazards.  Since the dry powder neutralizes threats upon contact, on-site incident management and clean up times are reduced. FAST-ACT can be safely applied to any liquid spill or vapor release enabling Emergency Responders to utilize one technology when faced with a wide variety of known or unknown chemical hazards.

Rapid Response to Chemical Releases

What is Your Response Strategy for Unidentified Materials

What is Your Response Strategy for Unidentified Materials?

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

The field of emergency response is full of gray areas and unknowns, with very little time to prepare for the incident at hand. Emergency responders and HAZMAT teams must make rapid decision making upon an incident scene, thus training and preparations for a wide array of incidents and hazardous issues is required for these individuals. Each and every day these workers will experience a new round of incidents and scenarios that they must respond to including response to hazardous and unidentified materials.

An unidentified materials incident is a hazmat scene in which a material is present but is unable to be identified prior to a response strategy being applied. This type of situation can be extremely dangerous for HAZMAT and emergency responders and will require preparation & planning of a response strategy before this unknown incident occurs in the field.

What are the different levels of HAZMAT response and how can emergency responders appropriately and effectively respond to an unidentified materials incident? Find out by reading more below!

What Does HAZMAT Mean & What Duties Do They Perform

What Does HAZMAT MeanHAZMAT stands for the abbreviations “Hazardous Materials” – which are substances in quantities or forms that can pose a major risk to human health, property, or the environment. The typical substances that are classified as ‘hazardous materials’ include toxic chemicals, fuels, nuclear waste products, and other CBRN agents.

The likelihood of a HAZMAT incident is more likely than you may have thought, as many products containing hazardous chemicals are routinely stored and used in homes. Furthermore, these materials are also commonly transported every day on highways, railroads, waterways, and even pipelines.

Unfortunately, thousands of HAZMAT incidents occur each year and can result in significant damage to the environment and public health. When a hazardous materials incident occurs, it is the duty of HAZMAT teams and emergency responders to contain, neutralize, and decontaminate the materials present. This is with the goal in mind of securing the area and the safety of humans within the area of the affected incident.

HAZMAT Operations & Situations

A Hazardous Materials Response Team has a set of operational tasks that they are designated to perform. This organized group of hazardous materials technicians that respond to hazardous materials incidents deal with the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and other dangerous materials that may become present in the environment due to an accident, leak, or an attack. The mission of the HAZMAT Response Team is to ultimately control the spill and eliminate any imminent hazard to the public, and this response will range per situation.

The three most common HAZMAT situations that are typically responded to by emergency responders includes an incident involving hydrocarbons, narcotics and clandestine drug labs, and common household product incidents. These three different situations each require different response strategies to effectively contain and clear the environment. Below we are going to discuss the different levels of HAZMAT response per situation.

The Levels of HAZMAT Response

Generally, there are four different levels of HAZMAT response for hazardous materials. These four levels include awareness, operations, technicians, and specialists.

The Levels of HAZMAT ResponseThe Awareness Level

The awareness level of HAZMAT is the most basic and is designed for a person who in the course of their normal activities or duties, may be the first person on the scene of an emergency involving HAZMAT or CBRNe agents. The responders at this level are expected to understand and be able to detect the presence of these materials. An awareness level certification can be obtained from a university, medical center, and from FEMA through exams.

The Operations Level

An operational level responder is those who respond to releases or potential releases of hazardous materials or CBRNe as an initial response to the incident to help protect nearby individuals and the environment. Operational level responders are expected to respond in a defensive fashion to control the release from a safe distance to keep it from spreading. In comparison to the awareness level, operations level requires a more hands-on approach to an incident of this nature. They will also be responsible for performing evacuations and establishing hazard zones.

To achieve operations level, responders are trained in such HAZMAT/CBRNe defensive techniques such as absorption, damming, diking, diverting, retention vapor dispersion, and suppression. This includes workers such as firefighters, environmental and conservation personnel, and other public safety personnel.

The Technician Level

A highly specialized and technical level, the technician level has responders that take offensive action in responding to HAZMAT releases for the purpose of controlling the release. At this level, the responders are classified as HAZMAT Technicians and are supposed to use specialize chemical PPE. On average, training for HAZMAT Technicians is 40 hours, and they are to have a strong background or understanding of basic chemistry.

The Specialist Level

The highest level of HAZMAT response, the specialist responder has a very extensive and advanced level of knowledge in chemistry, biology, and other science disciplines. The specialist responders work with technician level responders to take a hands-on approach in controlling a hazardous release. In some instances, these responders serve as trouble-shooters at HAZMAT/CBRNe incidents. Training to be certified as a Specialist level is 24 hours and must contain a college degree.

Response to Unknown Hazmat Materials

What can HAZMAT and emergency responders do when they come across an unknown HAZMAT materials incident? Handling a situation of this magnitude can be very dangerous and extremely hard to contain. However, new and emerging technology has aided in situations just like this – with new detectors that are able to identify unknown gases and vapors in nearly minutes. Although this is a quick response time, sometimes it may be a couple minutes too long and risk the safety and containment of the unidentifiable hazardous material. When HAZMAT comes upon an incident, they will need to immediately take action, even if they are not necessarily sure what the material is in question.

FAST-ACT® is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance specialty materials effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents.  The FAST-ACT formulation is non-flammable, non-corrosive, and significantly reduces both liquid and vapor hazards.  Since the dry powder neutralizes threats upon contact, on-site incident management and clean up times are reduced. FAST-ACT is offered in pressurized cylinders capable of addressing both liquid and vapor hazards, manually dispersed containers, kits for liquid hazard treatment, and mitts for equipment and small scale decontamination.  FAST-ACT can be safely applied to any liquid spill or vapor release enabling Emergency Responders to utilize one technology when faced with a wide variety of known or unknown chemical hazards.

Response to Unknown Hazmat Materials

Are You Prepared for a Refrigerant Leak

Are You Prepared for a Refrigerant Leak?

By | chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

The chemical compound Refrigerant is used in several methods in the industrial manufacturing business – and is something commonly found in most environments including your home and businesses. This compound is typically found in either a fluid or gaseous state and it readily absorbs heat from the environment providing functions such as refrigeration or air conditioning when used in correlation with a compressor or evaporator.

The term “Refrigerant” is a brand name that incorporates a range of chemical elements referred to as ‘chlorofluorocarbons’ which includes the chemicals hydrogen, carbon, fluorine, and chlorine in its composition. The use of this chemical amalgam, however, has presented potential health risks and environment hazards for humans and even first-responders who are called upon to respond to accidents or leaks involving refrigerants. Refrigerant leaks or ammonia compressor leaks can be significantly hazardous as the characteristics of this type of leak can be extremely hard to distinguish upon contact.

We are going to discuss the potential dangers of a refrigerant leak to first responders and overall human exposure and how you can prepare in defense to a possible refrigerant leak.

How Do Refrigerators & A/C units WorkHow Do Refrigerators & A/C Units Work

Air conditioners, refrigerators, or heat pumps contain a sealed refrigerant system that contains this chemical in quantities that should never runout. An air conditioning system uses refrigerant inside the copper coils and as this chemical absorbs heat from indoor air it will begin a transition from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid. The air conditioning unit sends the refrigerant outside where the fan is blowing out hot air over the coils and exhausts it to the exterior. This process is used in both a/c units and refrigerators as they take heat energy out and transfer it from one place to another. During this process, however, incidents can occur such as leaks that can leave a potentially dangerous situation for first-responders and hazmat personnel.

How to Address a Catastrophic Refrigerant Leak

The actions that need to take place during a refrigerant leak, particularly a catastrophic leak, need to be executed swiftly and effectively. First-responders and hazmat personnel will conduct response actions when called upon the scene. The building or space affected by the refrigerant leak needs to be evacuated, no matter the severity of the chemical leak. The undistinguishable characteristics of the refrigerant leak such as the amount of refrigerant that has been released from the leak, the location of the leak, and who has been exposed to these hazardous chemicals are typically unknown to emergency responders and thus protocol must be taken to secure the safety of all occupants of the incident area. First-responders that respond to a potential refrigerant leak are required to wear Level A chemical protective clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to protect themselves during the performed rescue. Once the compressor is turned off and the leaking has subsided, the next course of action is neutralizing the area of the chemical leak.

Dangers of a Slow Refrigerant LeakDangers of a Slow Refrigerant Leak

Slow refrigerant leaks usually occur most of the time and are just not called upon to emergency responders, as people are unable to identify this present leak. First-responders will, however, receive calls about slow refrigerant leaks when the system is in a small, un-vented room that has been experiencing a leak for quite a long period of time. The result of this is that the leak pushes all the oxygen out of the room and can lead to an individual that is exposed to this small area to feel sick or pass out upon entry of this area. When a slow leak occurs like this overtime it can leave significant health risks to any individual exposed as the chemicals will continue to build-up inside the environment making the environment have a high level of chemicals in its air.

Emergency Response Procedures for a Slow Refrigerant Leak

After identification of a small refrigerant leak occurs, the individual will contact 9-1-1 and have emergency responders dispatched out into the area. When emergency responders enter the incident scene, they will take several factors into consideration before deciding how to respond to the refrigerant leak such as the chemical that is at play in the environment, the concentration of the chemical, and what the current situation is inside the contaminated area. It is important for most first-responders to carry a O2 sensor with them in situations like this where you are trying to identify the current condition of the environment before entering the area.

Once emergency responders are prepped with PPE and ready to enter the refrigerant leak area, they will need to evaluate the machinery that is causing the leak to determine what the best course of action is for the situation. Depending on the case itself, first-responders may ventilate the room to help maintain safe levels while keeping the machinery on – whether that be an a/c unit, refrigerator, etc. They may also decide to shut down the unit but that will vary based on the environment and the intrinsic cost that it could impact. Ultimately, it may be better to leave the system running but the emergency team will evaluate that as they gather information about the refrigerant leak.

Neutralizing the Chemical Threat

The refrigerant chemical that has been exposed in the environment will need to be removed from the area properly before occupants can re-enter the space. The process of removing the chemical properties included in a refrigerant can be difficult as the multiple chemistries may require different solutions for decontamination and neutralization. Instead of having to utilize multiple decontamination methods to completely remove the chemical contaminant in the environment (which can be a timely and inefficient process), first-responders should use an all-in-one decontamination solution that works against multiple chemicals.

FAST-ACT® is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance specialty materials effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents. The FAST-ACT formulation is non-flammable, non-corrosive, and significantly reduces both liquid and vapor hazards. Since the dry powder neutralizes threats upon contact, on-site incident management and clean up times are reduced. The chemical decontamination solution works quickly to significantly reduce hazards associated with common industrial chemicals. The broad range of utility makes FAST-ACT a valuable tool for a variety of environments that can help aid police, fire and other emergency responders to successfully and quickly decontaminate a hazardous chemical threat.

Signs of Refrigerant Poisoning

Refrigerant poisoning happens when someone is exposed to the chemicals ‘refrigerant’ that are used to cool appliances. Around these chemicals an individual will want to limit exposure, as exposure to these toxic chemicals can be severely hazardous to public health. Inhaling the fumes caused from a refrigerant leak can lead to several symptoms that will be easily to identify. These symptoms include the following:

  • Breathing problems
  • Fluid buildup in the lungs
  • Irritation of the eyes, ears, and throat
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cough
  • Chemical burn
  • Dizziness

Gaining information and awareness of the potential risks that refrigerant leaks pose to an environment is critical, particularly for first responders. When you are responding to an incident involving refrigerant chemicals preparing with protective equipment and decontamination solutions is necessary to properly respond and remediate the situation.

Emergency Response to Chemical Suicides

Emergency Response to Chemical Suicides

By | chemical attacks properness, chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

Chemical Suicide Dangers to Emergency RespondersEmergency responders and HAZMAT teams are responding to a growing number of calls involving the reported new suicide trend that has been evolving in developed countries. Chemical suicides, also known as “detergent suicides” was first seen in Japan in 2007 and has since spread into other countries like the United States that is responding to a number of these incidents recently – with many emergency responders being called to the scene of chemical suicides.

“Detergent Suicides” was the named labeled to this incident by the media because it contains the use of household chemicals that are mixed together to produce a highly toxic concentration of hydrogen sulfide gas. The individuals involved in these incidents will remain in a closed area like a car, small room, or even a closet in the pursuit to receive instant effects both severe and/or deadly.

This trend developed online through the availability of instructions that were posted via the web. And has since grown into a devastating trend because of its assumed “painless” option for killing oneself. However, the inherent risks produced from this type of suicide can be dangerous not only to the victim but also to first responders and emergency personnel that enter the scene unprepared or unprotected for a chemical vapor/liquid release. What can emergency response personnel do to become more aware and prepared for chemical suicides?

Common Household Chemicals Used in Chemical Suicides

Chemical suicides involve the mixing of common household chemicals that create a deadly hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas. Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that has a distinct, strong odor of rotten eggs or sulfur. When this chemical turns into a vapor in high concentrations it can be highly dangerous, particularly to first responders who show up to the scene without proper respiratory protection. This chemical is an olfactory nerve paralyzer that can rapidly fatigue one’s sense of smell, even in low volumes.

Hydrogen sulfide is constructed by mixing hydrochloric acid with a sulfur-constructed compound. Both of these chemicals are easy to obtain and can be purchased at a local grocery, hardware, or big box store. The chemical, when created, will turn into a gas called asphyxiant that is known to suffocate victims at the cellular level, rendering the cells in the body unable to use oxygen.

The effects and symptoms of hydrogen sulfide exposure will begin almost immediately after exposure. At high concentrations, this chemical can be very deadly as it is nearly impossible to detect with no odor to it at all – because olfactory nerves are completely stripped of function of smell. Some other symptoms that someone will experience from exposure includes the following:

  • Respiratory irritation
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Suffocation
  • Coma
  • and Death

Detergent Suicides Using Hydrogen Cyanide

Another toxic gas that is sometimes found to be used in detergent suicides is hydrogen cyanide. This type of chemical used in these incidents is less likely to be used because of the difficulty in acquiring the consumer products needed to construct this chemical. Hydrogen cyanide gas is created using an acid source and cyanide salts like sodium cyanide or potassium cyanide. This chemical is easily absorbed through contact with the mucus membranes, eyes, and skin. The odor produced from this chemical is correlated with the smell of bitter almonds and can be a very strong and overwhelming odor in the environment. Some of the key symptoms that a person will experience from exposure to hydrogen cyanide include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Headache
  • Palpitation
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Increased Respiratory Rate
  • Unconsciousness
  • and Death

Signs of a Chemical Suicide

From 2008 to 2011 there were a total of 72 chemical suicides that were documented in the United States. About 80% of these incidents resulted in injuries to police officers, firefighters, emergency workers, and even civilians exposed to the gas. After the high level of injuries to emergency responders from chemical suicides, first responders are taking more care at crime scenes to detect signs of this type of incident in an effort to protect themselves. The signs that may be displayed at a chemical suicide crime scene can include these specific signs:

  • Small confined space (such as a car, small room, closet, etc.)
  • Tape or plastic covering vents and windows
  • Signs warning of toxic gas – usually placed by victim
  • A victim showing no sign of trauma
  • Empty cleaning supplies, pesticides, etc.
  • A strong odor similar to rotten eggs or burnt almonds
  • Suicide note

Chemical Suicide Response Procedures

The dangers presented to emergency responders upon contact with a chemical suicide is extremely high and due to the nature of the chemicals – as it is usually found as a vapor – can spread rapidly throughout the environment. When the confined space is opened this vapor can seep out and rapidly affect a large area and more important effect those exposed to the chemical vapor. The chemicals used in the chemical suicide can even continue to off-gas for an extended period of time way beyond when the incident took place.

If a chemical suicide is suspected, first responders should follow local response guidelines for securing the area and protecting the health of emergency responders. The procedures an emergency responder will take when coming across a chemical suicide crime scene includes the following steps.

Chemical Suicide Response ProceduresEvaluating the Crime Scene

During the first glimpse at the crime scene, look for alerts and signs of a chemical suicide. Determining the specific type of crime scene will help responders thoroughly prepare before stepping foot onto the crime scene.

Safely Secure the Environment

If the affected area contains people, it is important to immediately evacuate these individuals. Evaluate the chemical concentration, population size, the size of the affected area, and the wind speed. All of these factors can play a role in the containment and decontamination process.

Ventilate and Monitor Air in the Confined Space

When the area has been secured and analyzed extensively for potential hazards in the area, you will be able to start the ventilation process. The ventilation process should only be handled and conducted by trained and equipped first responders. Also, use air monitoring systems to detect chemical levels still present in the area to help you be aware of toxic chemicals still present.

Decontaminate Items & Surfaces in the Area

Surfaces and items can be contaminated easily by a chemical liquid/vapor release in an environment. Finding a decontamination solution that is able to quickly and effectively decontaminate both surfaces and air is essential for emergency responders. With FAST-ACT all your decontamination needs will be met, and it will help emergency responders act quickly to chemical suicides.

FAST-ACT is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance specialty materials effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents. FAST-ACT is offered in pressurized cylinders capable of addressing both liquid and vapor hazards, manually dispersed containers, kits for liquid hazard treatment, and mitts for equipment and small-scale decontamination. FAST-ACT can be safely applied to any liquid spill or vapor release enabling emergency responders to utilize one technology when faced with aa wide variety of known and unknown chemical hazards.