Home Podcasts THMG019 – Wives’ Tales of Haz Mat

THMG019 – Wives’ Tales of Haz Mat

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In this episode, we discuss the stories and “facts” about our line of work and how they don’t always add up when put under the microscope.

Complete Show Notes

4:55 Let’s Dispel Some Old Wives’ Tales

  • We’re technicians, not chemists – to explain complex chemical events, we sometimes generalize, which can lead to misunderstandings or loss of truth
  • Some people lie – they make things up if they don’t know the answer, which is how old wives’ tales get started
  • If you don’t know something, admit it, find the answer, and get back to that person
  • This episode is all about some of the biggest old wives’ tales in the hazmat field

11:00 Fluorine Strips Don’t Measure High Acids

  • There are many kinds of paper “meters” that we use – one of them is F paper, or fluorine paper
  • Fluorine paper indicates the presence of fluorine ions in a sample with a color change
  • The majority of test strips on the market need a “wetting agent,” such as a strong acid solution – then, they measure visually
  • Manufacturer instructions generally seem to say that it measures pH, rather than molarity
  • The type of acid matters, because there are ones that can hurt or kill you

14:55 If Your Partner Goes Down, Turn and Run

  • We need to recognize the need to call mayday on our radios and learn hand signals
  • Statistically speaking, a member working in a suit downrange is more likely to have a cardiac event than to suffer the effects of a hazmat incident

19:45 SCBA Failure is Common

  • You’re more likely to be hit by lightning 7 times than to have a full SCBA failure
  • If the integrity of your suit is ever compromised, roll it up, clamp it with your hands, and head down to decon
  • Physical illnesses or injuries that can result from exposure – claustrophobia, nausea, heart attacks, diabetic incidents, and heat stress (most common)
  • Entrapment or immersion are possibilities – falling into water or chemicals, train cars, etc. – but Level A floats and will keep you upright
  • Even though they can take a lot, we still want to minimize contact with substances

26:50 You Should Avoid Crawling or Kneeling

  • You can crawl AND kneel in your suit – they’re abrasion tested
  • Use common sense, though – use padding and make sure you’re not kneeling in something that will compromise your suit

29:10 Level A Can Withstand Fire

  • Most Level A is not designed for fire impingement, although they’re expected to pass an “exposure test”
  • Flash suits aren’t meant for fire, either – they’re meant for abrasion protection, not flash

32:50 You Shouldn’t Drag Someone in SCBA

  • You should absolutely drag someone who goes down if they’re in SCBA
  • Don’t worry about scoring or damaging the suit when you’re dragging him
  • Rip them out of the suit, do an emergency decon, and call EMS

34:40 Nerve Gas Is a Gas

  • This is a common misnomer and is different from the actual nerve agent product
  • By nature, nerve agents are designed to stay around
  • Their vapor pressure is between .006 and 3 mm Hg – they’re actually an oily liquid

37:20 Taking Your Face Piece Off Buys You Extra Time

  • You’re operating in your Level A, lose track of time, and run out of air. Can you buy yourself a few extra minutes by taking off your face piece?
  • When you breathe in the normal air in your cylinder, it’s around 20.9% O2 with exhalation around 16%
  • Your entire suit is comprised of this exhalation, so you’re breathing 16% in the best case scenario
  • Humans won’t survive with levels at 6% or lower, so it’s essential to know your SCBA airtime and not take any chances

46:30 Burned Pots Clean Themselves If You Soak Them Overnight

  • Mike says yes and that the pot will even put itself away
  • Bobby isn’t convinced

47:30 Radiation Glows Green

  • Most radiation doesn’t glow, or at least in the spectrum that humans can see light
  • Many substances will emit visual light if “stimulated” by the ionizing radiation from radioactive material – known as “fluors” or “scintillators”
  • This kind of material is used in the faces of clocks, watches, and instruments on ships and airplanes to make them visible in the dark
  • It’s also possible to “trick” radioactive material into creating visible light – called Cherenkov radiation
  • In Cherenkov radiation, radiation from radioactive material goes into a material (like glass or water) – it’s traveling faster than light can travel in the material, so it gives off light as it slows down
  • To see this glow, though, the substance has to be very radioactive

49:30 Cars Explode

  • The explosive range of gasoline is around 1.6% to 7.6%
  • However, you need a mixture of 93.4% to 98.4% of air for gasoline to ignite
  • However, fires can sometimes occur due to damage to a fuel line or engine problems, so we always need to be prepared

52:45 You Have to Use Level A for Hydrogen Cyanide

  • Very little (if any) HCN is absorbed through the skin
  • But, HCN can cause death up to 24 hours after exposure due to the liver metabolizing HCN compounds into the bloodstream

53:35 It’s Bad to Absorb Alpha and Beta Particles

  • We don’t want to get the sources of alpha and beta particles in is
  • However, once alpha and beta particles are released, they interact with matter and are no longer harmful
  • Getting the source in you can produce a stream of particles that will cause internal damage
  • As long as the source isn’t airborne, we don’t need to wear respiratory protection

56:00 “Chief, We Can Smell the Substance, But We Can’t Find It – It Must Not Be There”

  • There’s always something there regardless of what your meter says
  • It’s a substance with no flammability that isn’t being picked up on any of your 5 gasses and isn’t displacing O2
  • Use the clues you have to rule out certain substances – this helps you focus in on what it actually is

1:00:15 Oxygen Explodes

  • Oxygen is an oxidizer – it isn’t flammable
  • It enhances combustion, but you won’t explode if you’re on O2 and smoking
  • O2 causes things to burn hotter and quicker – keep in mind that oxygen and hydrocarbons won’t mix well

Have a question? Send an email to feedback@thehazmatguys.com or leave a message on our Haz Mat Guys comment hotline: 843-628-1484

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