Home Interviews THMG138 – Interview with Mike Callan, Part I

THMG138 – Interview with Mike Callan, Part I


In part 1 of a two part series, Bob and Mike discuss the foundations of hazmat in the United States with Mike Callan. They also enjoy a few anecdotal stories about the beginning of Gonzo, a character in his acclaimed book, Street Smart Hazmat.

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Complete Show Notes

1:20 Introduction to Mike Callan

  • One of the founding fathers of hazmat – helped create the laws, standards, regulations, etc. we use today
  • Wrote Street Smart Hazmat, a very digestible book that’s perfect for any hazmat technician
  • Joined the fire department in 1971 and had his first shift in 1972 – no placarding until 1975

4:45 A Brief History of Hazmat

  • The word “hazmat” didn’t even exist back in the day – these incidents were simply referred to as Class B (flammable liquids) or Class D (exotic metals) fires
  • Regulations for fire departments started rolling out in the mid-1980s – this was around 10 years behind industry
  • Everything was empirical back in the day – they learned based on experience because there was nothing else to go on
  • Hazmat had its birth during the “big bang theory” – lots of bangs and other problems led to the creation of hazmat teams
  • Only 2 books on hazmat were available in the beginning, along with booklets (like the Fire Officer’s Guide to Dangerous Chemicals) created by the NFPA

19:00 Bringing the Hazmat Community Together

  • Mike says we’re at the point now where the hazmat community has truly come together – open dialogues about the field, information sharing, conferences, etc.
  • Attended a hazmat conference in Memphis in 1981
  • First fire academies came into existence in 1984
  • Mike and others traveled around the country back in the day (and into other countries) to learn from other departments and figure out how to improve

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