Home Podcasts THMG109 – Chemical Suicide Scenarios, Part I

THMG109 – Chemical Suicide Scenarios, Part I


In this episode, we answer a listener’s question about what to do when approaching a chemical suicide scene inside an apartment building. Mike gives Bob a scenario with limited resources and has him work through it from start to finish.

Complete Show Notes

6:30 Background on Mike’s Scenario for Bob

  • You’re sent on a 5 PM run for a potential chemical suicide in an apartment complex
  • Caller is in the apartment next door – reports that their neighbor has a sign on their door that says “Danger: hydrogen sulfide. Do not enter. Toxic gas. Call hazmat.”

8:00 First Moves On-Scene

  • Operations-level people probably don’t know what to look for in the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG), so they’ll probably just go up and start knocking on the door
  • Your first move should be evacuate the building to the point where you can’t smell the hydrogen sulfide anymore
  • Most people probably won’t have their SCBA on – the “tough factor” might come out, which can be dangerous
  • Remember that the IDLH is very low with hydrogen sulfide – it can heavily affect us, even in small doses
  • Most fire and police departments don’t like to shelter in place and err more on the side of caution
  • Your role as a hazmat technician is to guide the people around you – remember that you’re the expert!

11:50 Things You Need to Know Before Taking Action

  • This is what the listener wanted to know – which questions should we be asking in this scenario?
  • Building construction type
    • 6-story H-type multiple dwelling unit with brick exterior walls and wooden structures
    • Class 3 ordinary construction, which means there are voids that could change your evacuation
  • Hazmat assets on scene
    • 1 engine and 1 truck that each carry 2 firefighters
  • Metering capabilities
    • All you have is a CO meter
    • Several A team people are at your disposal – great at identifying substances without their meters
  • ETA
    • Half hour out

16:40 Bob’s Actions Based on What He’s Learned

  • Get everyone out and to the perimeter of the building – ERG standard is 300 feet
  • 6-story building, so it’s within reach of our buckets – send firefighters up and have them open up the bulkhead, scuttle, doors, and windows
  • Hydrogen sulfide falls down because it’s a heavy gas
  • Don’t use fans since hydrogen sulfide has a wide flammable range (4.5-45% LEL)
  • Start with 4 gas, PID, pH (wet and dry), F, KI – make sure to cover all your bases before going in

22:35 Decision-Making and Legal Ramifications

  • Risk vs. reward calculation – if there’s something you really think you can handle, you’ll take more of a risk than you would with something you think is dangerous
  • Situational awareness – don’t ignore obvious signs that something dangerous is happening just because of others’ emotions or irrational feelings
  • Mission-specific hazardous materials rules might allow your team to work a bit above its scope in certain situations
  • Mission-specific rescue procedures require your department to provide you with the proper PPE and training
  • For example, Mike would pull the victim out and do a dry decon as quickly as possible, but Bob disagrees and thinks teams should work within their expertise to avoid legal ramifications

32:30 Choosing PPE and Removing the Victim from the Apartment

  • Look at NIOSH for lots of data that can help you choose the right PPE for the situation
  • Chemical in question is a flammable inhalation hazard, so Bob decides to go in with a Level B suit – since it’s flammable, he’ll need to ventilate until it’s no longer flammable
  • Try putting some foam down to help with flammability
  • Definitely wearing SCBA since the chemical is still toxic even once you ventilate
  • Wear gloves – not your fire gloves, though, since they’re like a sponge – if you have to wear fire gloves, put on a pair of nitrile gloves underneath
  • Consider putting the victim into reverse isolation in a suit – he’ll probably still be off gassing, so you have to quarantine him from nose to toes
  • After he’s isolated, put him in the back of a well-ventilated ambulance – notify the ER so they know what they’re getting once the ambulance arrives

40:15 Reinsuring Safe Occupancy

  • Careful ventilation is a must – there’s no chemical mitigation, so you just have to ventilate the whole place – don’t be in a rush!
  • Don’t let anyone back in until every apartment, closet, hallway, etc. has been properly tested and metered
  • You may have to ventilate it for several hours – use high-pressure volume fans to create airflow in the voids

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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