Teams participating in the 22nd annual Hazmat Challenge can test their skills in a safe, realistic environment. (LANL photo)

LANL Hosts 22nd Annual Hazmat Challenge

For more than 20 years, hazmat teams have taken part in this event for a chance to network with one another, practice technical skills, and learn new techniques under realistic conditions in a safe environment.

Nine hazardous materials response teams from New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Nebraska have been testing their skills in a series of graded exercises at the 22nd annual Hazmat Challenge, which has taken place Aug. 13-17 at Los Alamos National Laboratory. For more than 20 years, hazmat teams have taken part in this event for a chance to network with one another, practice technical skills, and learn new techniques under realistic conditions in a safe environment.

"Recent expansion and improvements to our Emergency Response Training Center will allow us to increase the variety and complexity of the response scenarios during the challenge and other training events," explained Jeff Dare, group leader for the lab's Emergency Response group. "We have added training structures to include a grocery store, a medical clinic, a gas station, and a motel, and we have expanded the rail yard and added four railcars."

Vehicles, trucks, railcars, and other props are used there to mimic real-life hazmat situations. Past scenarios have included drug laboratory or chemical hazard identification, confined space rescue, gas leaks, a pressurized drum opening, and an exercise involving an overturned tanker, according to the lab.

LANL 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 are 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 challenge is available here.

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