It was a Wild West show down at GovSec West 2013 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas when I battled a hoist and a hazmat suit!
Rounding the corner to the left of the entrance to the exhibitors, I caught sight of a huge trailer parked in the corner, complete with fog being expelled from inside and a mannequin connected to a hoist on the roof with a steel ladder extending downward onto the ground. Yellow hazmat suits dangled from hangers looped onto the trailer, and rubber boots were readily available. With a scene like this, I just couldn’t help myself.
I approached the display and was met by Chris Koester who explained that he is a safety instructor with Priority One Safe-T Consulting and Northeast Technology Center as well as captain of the Springfield, MO fire department. Then, he quickly said, “You want to try?”
Of course that was all it took.
In a matter of seconds, he along with two other instructors sprang into action, one climbing to the top of the truck to master the hoist and the other handing me a harness with buckles and clasps, while Koester explained how to put it on and tighten it so that I could safely be hoisted from the inside of the truck through a tiny square opening on the vehicle’s roof via a heavy-duty cord attached to my harness with carabiners. The safety cord was even attached as a precaution.
Walking inside the trailer with my white hard hat in place, the instructor in charge of the hoist started winding as I started to lift into the air. Honestly, I felt a little like a piñata as I slightly swung, levitating off the sturdy ground of the trailer. I could hear the cranking of the lever of the hoist as I slowly and smoothly rose higher and higher. Grasping the sides of the square cut-out in the roof of the trailer, I guided myself through and grabbing the hand of the “hoist master,” I balanced and steadily stepped onto the roof of the trailer. Success!
On the way back down, I was told to point my toes and lock my legs as an instructor guided me down through the square opening and safely onto the floor of the trailer.
Next, the instructor showed me a small, round tunnel that led into the other side of the trailer where I would be met with fog to simulate a confined space emergency. Bending down, I crawled like a rat through the short tunnel and emerged safely on the other side to an environment filled with simulated vapor.
I jumped up, arms in the air...victory was mine…or so I thought.
Exiting the trailer, Koester said, “This next?” as he pointed to the florescent yellow hazmat suit. I couldn’t stop now, so I responded, “Of course!”
I was handed a head encompassing contraption to put onto my head to which I complied…never mind the hat hair that was to come!
I then sat down in a chair and lifted my legs as two instructors, one on either side of me, proceeded to dress me with the hazmat suit. It felt like a huge tarp that had been sewn to resemble a onesie for babies! I lifted my legs as each instructor slipped my feet into the proper place into the foot holster and slid the leg part up, stopping at my waist.
“Can you hold 30 pounds on your back,” I heard one of the instructors ask.
Having grown up in the country hauling hay and horse feed, I proudly responded, “yes.”
The next thing I knew, I had an oxygen tank attached to my back, steadied around my waist with a leather belt and arm straps. I placed my arms into the hazmat suit and extended my hands all the way to the end of each arm where black rubber gloves attached to the suit awaited my hands and fingers.
The instructors then hooked up the oxygen line to my head dress telling me to breathe in deeply to start the flow of oxygen. The hazmat suit was then zipped up, encasing my whole body and I was off, walking down an aisle at GovSec West, sporting the yellow suit.
Koester and the other two instructors are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to training and demonstrating the necessary skills to act appropriately and responsibly during emergency situations. The Northeast Technology Center HazMat & Confined Space Training Trailer is a valuable tool that can be used to simulate various hazardous materials and confined space emergencies while instructors can safely control the training scenarios enabling people to effectively learn in a hands-on environment.