Fire Department hosts hazmat training for Oakway Mutual Aid

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published March 6, 2019

 Members of the Oakway Mutual Aid group try on Level A hazmat suits Feb. 27 during training at the Southfield Fire Department, 24477 Lahser Road.

Members of the Oakway Mutual Aid group try on Level A hazmat suits Feb. 27 during training at the Southfield Fire Department, 24477 Lahser Road.

Photo provided by the Southfield Fire Department

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SOUTHFIELD — One day they’re hitting the books, and the next they’re donning a hazmat suit. 

Members of the Southfield Fire Department, along with their partners in the Oakway Mutual Aid group — made up of fire departments in Bloomfield Township, Birmingham, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Madison Heights, Royal Oak, Waterford and West Bloomfield — are in the midst of a two-week hazmat training operation. 

Capt. Jason Deneau said that over the two-week course, the local firefighters will spend 80 hours building on skills they already know, and will eventually reach hazmat technician level upon completion. 

The course was made possible by grant funding from the International Association of Firefighters and was organized by the Southfield Fire Department Training Division. 

Deneau said hazardous materials are defined as substances in large enough quantities to cause harm to humans and the environment, such as commonly used chemicals, gasoline and even radioactive material. 

“What this class is — everybody in the state of Michigan that comes out of the fire academy has a level of hazmat training and are able to recognize if it’s a problem and protect a lot of people through evacuation or sheltering in place,” Deneau said. “But the next step is being a hazmat technician, which means putting on chemical protection clothing, figuring out what these substances are and taking offensive action in stopping a leak or mitigating the hazard itself.” 

Deneau said that training together with Oakway was a natural decision, as the different municipalities often work together. 

“We do come together to form the Oakway Hazmat Team, and by running the training here in house, we’re using the same equipment (the crews) would be using — the air monitors are the same, the equipment is the same — they’re using the equipment and training with the people they’d be responding with on these types of calls,” he said. 

Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee said that the course also helps many of the departments’ new recruits. 

“We are doing this now because there are so many of our members who have retired, so we are training the new members,” Menifee said. “This is a great way to train with other departments around us and help train our new hazmat technicians to help mitigate these problems.” 

Plus, more first responders trained in hazmat mitigation means crews will be able to take care of an arising problem in a more timely fashion. 

“We’ll put several of the hazmat technicians on each unit, so there will always be a hazmat tech on duty every day,” Menifee said. 

Deneau said next on tap during the training will be real-life scenarios, such as an overturned gasoline tanker. 

Updates on the course will be given on the Southfield Fire Department’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

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