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Kitchener firefighters get breakthrough HazMat training

Last Updated Jun 14, 2018 at 8:18 pm EDT

Kitchener Fire - Rob Martin

Some local firefighters are now better equipped to tackle some specific hazards.

Each year, thousands of firefighters across Canada are exposed to chemical and biological hazards – and The Kitchener Fire Department got a crash course in how to handle them.

Deputy Chief Rob Martin says it was through a collaborative effort with the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“So they put together a HazMat program here in the City of Kitchener to train our firefighters to the NFPA standards on operations and technician level – and in order to expand on that, and be able to train our own staff and other firefighters in the Region and beyond, we also brought the IAFF to do a program called ‘Train-the-Trainer’ – which actually teaches firefighters how to train up to the technician standard.”

The training session is the first of its kind in Canada, and when it comes to how it will be applied in real-world situations – Martin says it varies.

“In 2017, we had 665 hazardous materials calls in the City of Kitchener. So that can be something like a carbon monoxide call with illness, all the way up to an ammonia or chlorine leak through an industrial accident. So it definitely is a varied level of response – but we always need to be prepared for any case, or any emergency.”

Martin adds the training took place at the Waterloo Region Emergency Services Training and Research Centre on Thursday.

“We did that partly because it’s a fantastic facility and has all the resources we need, but also because it’s a safe environment where we’re not causing any chaos, or any concerns to the public.”

In total, there were 18 firefighters participating in the training.

“We had nine of our own firefighters, plus a number from Guelph, Brantford, and North Bay that joined us – because we’re trying to build the capacity in the province, and reached out to other departments that wanted to jump on board with this collaborative effort.”

The HazMat Training Department says training students in hazards, defensive actions, and to OSHA and NFPA standards can help minimize and eliminate exposures.