Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Phil Ambrose- a Pioneer in Interactive Hazmat Response Training- Part Two of Five

Phil Ambrose

"As a career firefighter it is my responsibility to be physically and mentally fit and to be proficient in all job-related skills.    My feeling is that when you start with a high-risk occupation  such as firefighting, mining, confined space worker, refinery technician, etc. and add IDLH environments to that job, you better be good at what you do both personally and as a team.  My goal was to design a software system coupled with a training methodology that provides not only realistic training but an effective way to ensure HazMat technicians from ALL backgrounds in EVERY industry stay proficient in skills which will ultimately save lives.  I am fortunate to have family, friends, and a great team to have made this goal a reality.

My experience as a HazMat student was that most training, while informative, lacked the crucial element of realism that a student would gain with hands-on training.  Further, training on the actual drill grounds lacked the potential for an instructor to design unexpected or unforeseen hazards, conditions that a student must be prepared for in a real HazMat situation.  Ultimately the person holding a detection meter is responsible for themselves and their team and should completely understand the readings. Having a student hold a frontline meter up to a source and causing an alarm doesn't challenge the student or cause them to acquire critical decision making skills.  The training environment should come as close as possible to approximating a realistic hazard in which the individual will be relying on these skills to make critical decisions.   

In addition, I recognized that post 9/11, many new hazmat students were not from occupations that typically experience the danger and resulting 'pucker factor' of facing IDLH environments, and wanted to create a system that was realistic, innovative, and challenging while improving retention of difficult to understand principles.   I have seen too many hazmat trainings where conditions are faked using frontline meters with no values, or prompted by the instructor by voice or by postings on a wall.  In a real life situation, a student will not have the benefit of an instructor giving them feedback, and the ability to accurately comprehend real time information is imperative.

In initial training to new HazMat workers, I wanted the instructor to be able to let the students experience the concepts while being engaged 'hands on,' rather than just be PowerPointed on the subject.  For example, while discussing Oxygen displacement or ppm vs. LEL the students can now hold a meter and actually see what the instructor is explaining, and even answer interactive questions on the screen of the HazSim device.  The instructor would not be limited to preset training scenarios, and could make detection and identification part of the training process.  The method is repeatable and the instructor can review the concepts and answers while easily identifying students who may need more help on the principles.

Most importantly, by creating realism on the drill ground an instructor can challenge a student with what most of us call the 'pucker factor' and experts such as Dr. Michael Burke at Tulane University call the 'Dread Factor'.  As stated by Dr. Burke "dread refers to a realization of the dangers of the work and associated negative emotions resulting from possible hazardous exposures.  This realization of the possibility of injury or illness or negative emotions that accompany the realization play a primary role in motivating individuals to learn about how to avoid exposure to such hazards".  

With HazSim the student experiences the given hazard in real time.  The instructor is now free to evaluate and let the scenario play out and is no longer a verbal prompter.  All positions in the HazMat ICS are then challenged.  Although no real hazardous materials are present, the student experiences 'dread' as well as some healthy peer pressure to correctly interpret the data given on the HazSim meter."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hazardous Materials Event Simulation Training Part One of Five

Over the next several weeks, we're going to cover various hazardous materials training system for emergency responders as a follow-up to my last post .  My personal belief is that the best training systems are designed by those with field experience, and Phil Ambrose is one of those people.  He has the experience, the commitment to our field, and the creative insight to bring forth innovative training methodologies.  His company is HazSim, LLC., and before we go into his first rate training system, here's a little about him.  He's our kind of inventor.

"Mr. Ambrose was inspired to invent the HazSim through his passion for effective training and by identifying a critical gap in HazMat training that needed to be filled. Phil is a Firefighter/Hazardous Materials Specialist for a metropolitan fire department in Southern California. Prior to joining the fire service, Phil had eight years combined hazardous materials experience with the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and biotech leader, Amgen. As the Hazardous Waste Manager/Hazardous Materials Specialist for UCLA, Phil served as training officer for the UCLA Hazardous Materials Response Team (HMRT), was UCLA 's representative for a system-wide hazardous waste training committee, and managed the removal of chemical, radioactive and biological waste from the campus and the UCLA Medical Center.

Phil received the Exceptional Public Service Award from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for serving as a training liaison to their Hazardous Materials Response Team, and is a past Secretary of the LA-based Consortium of Technical Responders (CTR). Phil has held positions in several areas of hazardous materials including waste management, radiation safety, training, and regulatory management within university, hospital, industry, and municipal jurisdictions. Phil has trained members of fire, law enforcement, and industry and is a certified outreach instructor. Phil holds a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Loyola Marymount University, is a certified Paramedic, and holds several Hazardous Materials certifications. Phil's day routinely starts at 4am and includes training for Ultra Marathons and spending time in the Pacific Ocean on his Paddleboard preparing for race season." 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Train, Train, Train

I was talking to a salesman a while back who just got drafted to participate in Emergecy Response training. Good guy. Smart. Never been in a HAZMAT suit before and wanted to know if he'd need to wear a tie with it. Thought SCBA was a government agencies. Claustrophobic so he couldn't go into a confined space without having a panic attack.

So I kind of wrote him off.

Funny thing is, after the last several months, I've seen a difference in him. He's sold emergency response equipment for years, but he never really understood it. Now that he has to wear it and use it during his training, he's actually starting to know what it's for.

He comes and asks me questions, real questions for a change.

Every now and then it hits me how greatful I should be for all the training I've received. It's both saved and changed my life. Sometimes I forget that I didn't used to know anything about toxic gas. Now I occasionally take that knowledge for granted.

That's a mistake.

We're never to old to train. Never.

What do you think?