Recent Disasters Remind First Responders of the Need for Up-to-Date Hazmat Training

More than 30 regional firefighters from Southern Arizona communities will be participating in the Advanced Hazmat Life Support training offered by the University of Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center.

Arizonans don’t have to worry about hurricanes, which have caused the release of hazardous materials in areas including flood-damaged Texas (“New Hazard in Storm Zone: Chemical Blasts and ‘Noxious’ Smoke,” New York Times, Aug. 31).

However, the Southwest does experience flash floods, high winds, haboobs and wildfires that can trigger leaks of toxic substances into communities, posing serious health risks. Many Arizona residents live in areas vulnerable to accidental release of dangerous and possibly flammable substances—such as sulfuric acid, heavy metals, ammonia, chlorine and hydrofluoric acid from mining and industrial facilities and cargo from trucks and trains—which can cause searing pain, difficulty breathing, temporary blindness and even death.

Whether the disasters are natural or manmade, training is key to effective emergency response and saving lives. Starting Monday, Sept. 25, through Wednesday, Sept. 27, Tucson Fire Department is hosting Advanced Hazmat Life Support (AHLS) training for Southern Arizona emergency responders to better prepare them to deal with the medical impacts of disasters. The three-day classroom sessions, offered by the University of Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center, will be held at the Tucson Fire Department, 300 S. Fire Central Place, Tucson.

More than 30 regional firefighters from Avra Valley Fire District, Drexel Heights Fire District, Northwest Fire District, Tucson Fire Department, Tubac Fire District, Pascua Pueblo Fire Department, Green Valley Fire District and Rural Metro Fire will participate in the AHLS Provider and Tox-Medics courses, and 20 will take the AHLS Instructor Course to become teachers for their local departments in Southern Arizona.

The AHLS course focuses on providing expert medical care for victims of hazmat incidents and toxic terrorism, including how to rapidly assess hazmat patients, recognize the symptoms of particular toxic substances and immediately administer specific treatments. Participants will learn about decontamination, antidotes and drug therapy and establishing hazmat-response systems in the community.

“Responding to hazardous materials incidents is a team effort. Captain Andy Yeoh and Tucson Fire Department are hosting these state-of-the-art courses to better prepare all of our participating local and regional fire departments as they work together to protect us and our communities,” said Frank Walter, MD, UA professor of emergency medicine and pharmacy practice and science, and AHLS course director.

About Advanced Hazmat Life Support

AHLS was developed at the University of Arizona Emergency Medical Research Center, a Center of Excellence at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, in collaboration with the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology. Since 1999, more than 18,000 paramedics, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health-care professionals from 70 countries have trained with AHLS, preparing them for the clinical challenges of caring for patients exposed to chemical spills, toxic terrorism and other threats.

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn)