Leading Firefighter Ken McKeegan first got the idea for the new system while on holiday in the UK in 2000.
"I visited Wimbledon Fire Station to have a look at how they did things there and discovered an A4 board that they used for information collection at hazmat incidents," he said.
"Not long before that I had been at a hazmat job and we were scribbling details down on soggy bits of paper so when I saw the system they had in London I knew straight away that we needed something similar."
After years of development the Hazmat Assessment System was approved by CFA and is now available for purchase from the Protective Equipment Department.
The system was developed to assist in making Hazmat Incidents and Chemical, Biological, Radiological incidents safer for all emergency service workers and the public.
It's more than just a pro-forma board; it's a system of collecting raw information and transferring it to the incident controller accurately.
The idea of using hard boards such as breathing apparatus control boards or incident management boards to assist fire ground operations is nothing new to the fire service.
What makes this board different is the way it is laid out and the communication system developed to ensure that the incident controller receives the collected information as accurately as possible.
[The system in no way overrides the use of Hazard Assessment Guide (HAG) sheets. In fact it is layed out in such a way as to complement and assist in the use of HAG sheets as the flow of information collected is structured the same as the HAG sheets.]
The board is double sided and is made from clear Perspex and uses an alphanumeric system, which makes it easier to transfer information from the board to the incident controller who has an identical A4 version (in pad form).
The information can be transferred to the incident controller in two ways, either visually or verbally. The most accurate way is for the gas suit operator to hold the board up for the incident controller to read. If it is not possible for the incident controller to read the board, the gas suit operator can send the information via radio.
There are 13 blocks on the board and each block is numbered; the items in each block where possible is indicated by a letter. This allows the information to be transferred simply and accurately.
For example if the gas suit operator using the radio said “Block 8 – D” he is telling the incident controller the chemical involved is in a drum.
Side One deals with the chemicals involved in the incident and is divided into six blocks. It prompts the Gas Suit operator to collect information such as the Emergency Information Panel, chemical name, colour of substance, the nature of the substance and what reactions may be occurring with the chemical concerned.
The last block on side one asks the operator to collect information relating to the size of the spill and how much has leaked, this information can be used by the incident controller to develop either a plume model of any escaping gas or vapour cloud or plan for any spill containment strategies that may be required.
Side Two deals with the type of container the chemical is stored in and the colour of the container is also used to indicate the type of vehicle the chemical is transported on.
Block 11 deals with multiple containers whilst Block 12 asks the operator to look for the packaging group or the type of radiation involved.
The additional information block reminds the operator to add any extra comments to Block 13 or to collect items such as vehicle manifests, log books, emergency procedure guide, MSDS, safe storage and handling information cards or consignment notes.
There is also a section for the incident controller to add local weather information which may have an effect on the incident.
The board has a china-graph pencil attached to it via a string. This string is tied to the top corner of the board.
The board is carried through the decontamination process with the gas suit operator and is decontaminated at the same time as the operator. After the board has been decontaminated the string holding the pencil can be cut off and disposed of and replaced during after use maintenance.
To effectively use the system to its full potential all firefighters and officers should complete the small training session supplied with the introduction of the board.
Any further questions can be directed to LFF Ken McKeegan at Pt Cook Fire Station on 9395 3827 or at firstname.lastname@example.org