By Dana Simas, Public Information Officer

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Office of Correctional Safety (OCS), Emergency Planning and Management Unit (EPMU) recently hosted CDCR’s first nationally-recognized hazardous materials response course.

The three-day course, taught by the Emergency Services Training Institute at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), was held at the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center (CTC) in Galt.

The class was made up of 28 students from CDCR’s fire departments, an emergency medical technician from Contra Costa County, and a representative from the Federal Bureau of Reclamation. The students from CDCR are first responders and emergency personnel who are likely to encounter hazardous material. Most CDCR institutions have at least one hazardous material specialist.

By taking this course, the first responders will take away knowledge that could potentially save thousands of lives in the event of a hazardous materials incident.

Kevin Kostecky, facility captain with CDCR’s Office of Appeals, enjoyed the interactive classes and the instructors. “(The instructors) really know what they’re talking about and they’re clearly passionate about what they do.”

The participants learned about the characteristics and types of agents that have been used and could be used in a terrorist attack or hazardous materials event. Participants worked through challenges faced by emergency responders in order to recognize hazards, analyze the problem and implement their plan to prevent the spread of the hazard to the public and environment.

Each year, more than 81,000 emergency response personnel are trained by TEEX from all 50 states and 45 foreign countries.

The course was brought to CTC by Michael Day, senior emergency management coordinator in CDCR’s EPMU. Day attended the course in January and was so intrigued by the information provided that he decided to bring the course to CDCR.

He was able to secure funding through federal grants provided by the Department of Homeland Security. An equivalent course costs approximately $500-600 per person but only provides certification for hazardous materials response in California. This course offers participants an opportunity to earn nationally recognized certification for hazardous material response.

One of the instructors, Long Beach Fire Capt. Jerry Lara, has been with TEEX for nine years and teaches the course part-time all over the United States. TEEX teaches the class almost every week of the year,
“We are in very high demand,” said Capt. Lara.

On the second day of the course, the participants learn how to properly suit up in their hazardous material gear. They also learn emergency decontamination and removal of their gear in the event of a breach in the suit where there is possible exposure to the hazardous material. On the third day, participants take the Hazardous Material Operations level responder exam to get their nationally-recognized certification.

In one of the tests, the students had to assemble plastic building blocks in the tight confines of a dummy cell while wearing full protective gear.

A second course will be taught at the National Guard Armory in Ontario in Southern California on October 16-18. For more information on signing up for the course, contact Michael Day at 916-323-0339.

Photos below by Eric Owens, OPEC Staff