By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 8/25/19
In a crisis, it’s training that allows for the best outcome. But how do you train for a crisis? Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) personnel train to respond to situations that involve complex situations, say chemical spills, and are certified in the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER).
In early August LCU associates completed their annual recertification – responding to a mock emergency in the safety of their parking lot.
The 8-hour training involved 21 employees from Water Operations and Maintenance and Regulatory Compliance and Training LCU Lines of Business.
Joshua Rosenblatt, LCU regulatory compliance analyst, explains, “In the scenario of a hazardous spill we learn to identify the chemical, its nature in an environment, and we are trained to use reference guidelines to secure, clean up, and contain the spill.” The next step is asking others: Are you safe? If so, can you help others? “Then,” adds Rosenblatt, “we provide notification to other emergency responders and public safety agencies as necessary and take appropriate action to contain and remediate the hazard.”
HAZWOPER is a set of guidelines produced and maintained by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which regulates hazardous waste operations and emergency services in the United States and its territories. With these guidelines, the U.S. government regulates hazardous wastes and dangerous goods from inception to disposal.
Guidelines detail remediation of contaminated sites, the chain of command in an emergency response, and how to stage treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes. Hazardous wastes are defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations.
Rosenblatt explained that the 8-hour training refreshes what each certified employee learned in the initial 1-week 40-hour training. It also provides updated techniques such as being on the lookout for silica in concrete drilling and using a drone to get a birds-eye view of a situation before first responders rush in.
During the training, the various certification stages are individually addressed, from Level A, the highest, indicating those who would head into a contaminated “hot zone,” to Level C, those who are on-site to assist with logistics and support. Rosenblatt said, “This is a very modular system, it can be scaled up for a large event with multiple agencies on the scene, to a small incident within a facility, that is easier to remedy.”
He continued, “This national training allows even smaller communities like ours to benefit from the knowledge gained from historical hazardous waste incidents, making sure that if a similar crisis should occur here, we have measures to keep Las Cruces safe.”
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Managing warm zone decontamination are: Horacio Palacios, in a Level B response suit, is rinsed off after exposure to hazardous material by Juan Chavez and Charles O’Donnell. (Photo by Joshua Rosenblatt)