Hazmat Challenge to test responders’ skills

New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri teams tackle timed exercises

July 6, 2017

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Las Cruces Fire Department look over the Stinger Operation prior to the competition. Teams have the opportunity to work with tools, look over the area, and get a general feel for what they will be doing.

Ten hazardous materials response teams from New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri will test their skills in a series of graded, timed exercises at the 21st annual Hazmat Challenge July 10-14 at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“The Hazmat Challenge provides a training venue for Laboratory and regional Hazmat responders where they are able to test and expand their technical response capabilities in a demanding but safe environment,” said Jeff Dare, Group Leader for Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Emergency Response Group. “The scenarios this year will provide unique challenges for the teams.”

Held at Los Alamos’ Technical Area 49, the event requires participants to respond to simulated hazardous materials emergencies involving aircraft, rail and highway transportation, industrial piping, a biological lab and a confined space event. The finale of the Hazmat Challenge is a skills-based obstacle course. Teams are graded and earn points based on their ability to perform response skills through a 10-station obstacle course while using fully encapsulating personal protective equipment.

The Laboratory began the Hazmat Challenge in 1996 to hone the skills of its own hazmat team members. The event now offers a comprehensive training opportunity in a competitive format that is open to all hazardous materials response teams in New Mexico and across the nation. The winning team receives a traveling trophy and top-scoring teams in the technical categories are awarded permanent trophies. Separate trophies will be awarded to the three top scoring teams in the obstacle course event. Funding for New Mexico teams is provided through federal grants through the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (NMDHSEM).

A video about the 2008 and 2012 Hazmat challenges is on the Laboratory’s YouTube channel.