HAZMAT training takes over fire department

HAZMAT training takes over fire department
Trainees say they hope they never have to put their skills to use. (Photo source: WLOX)
Trainees say they hope they never have to put their skills to use. (Photo source: WLOX)

Training is essential for any job to be done correctly.

But for first responders, training could mean the difference between life and death; especially when it involves hazardous materials.

"There could be an accident anytime," said DECON, LLC instructor, TJ Bocek. "These hazardous substances could affect any community anywhere."

DECON holds its training conference at the Biloxi Fire Department every year, bringing in trainees from all over the Gulf Coast.

"We're teaching them to work together. This is a community effort," said Bocek.

Bocek is the senior instructor for his father's training company. Trainees are a mix of military, firefighters, and hospital staff. If an emergency situation arose, all of those agencies would be working as a team to keep the public safe.

"You get these specialized teams that can work together, protect the treatment inside. Get the people clean, get them the help they need. Get that substance off of them that's harming them, and control and contain it," said Bocek.

The training gives the men and women a chance to get familiar with the equipment used to decontaminate people during and after a chemical event. Training includes setting up a decon shelter, and working with hazmat suits.

"I feel like it's something that everybody on our team should go through so that they're as comfortable as we are," said Airman Madeline Warner.

Warner and Guenda Weeks are both stationed at Keesler Air Force Base. They hope a situation never arises that would put their training to the test.

"But, if it does, we know exactly what to do from beginning to end," said Weeks.

Trainees say the hours spent going through the ropes are worth it.

"It's always better to be prepared," said Biloxi firefighter Wesley Gillespie.

It is the fifth year DECON has partnered with the Biloxi Fire Department and Keesler Air Force Base for the free training.

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