Scent training for hazmat has many benefits, including ensuring the safety of first responders and hazmat field personnel by evaluating safety protocols, preparing them to gather intel during emergencies, and building confidence in their ability to handle hazardous materials responsibly. In addition, scent training enhances hazmat general awareness training by familiarizing students with critical issues like how to respond in a hazmat-related emergency by identifying hazardous materials in real-time using their sense of smell.
Did you know?
US. Code of Federal Regulations Title 49, commonly referred to as “49 CFR”. 49 CFR Subpart H, Section 172.704 (49 CFR 172.704) states that hazmat employees must have hazmat training as required by law for the transportation of hazardous materials and dangerous goods… referring to substances or articles that pose a hazard to health, safety, property or the environment when transported in commerce.
A Catastrophic Threat to People and the Environment
On February 3, 2023, Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) general merchandise freight train 32N derailed 38 railcars in East Palestine, Ohio, spilling hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, soil, and water. The derailed equipment included 11 tank cars carrying hazardous materials that subsequently ignited, fueling fires. First responders implemented a 1-mile evacuation zone surrounding the derailment site; however, the fires threatened tank cars carrying vinyl chloride, a colorless but hazardous and carcinogenic gas posing a highly explosive chemical vapor threat. The emergency response became a massive operation to clean up more than 700 tons of contaminated soil, 2 million gallons of liquid with the direction of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to disperse the hazardous materials across several different hazardous waste disposal sites across four different US States. Various news outlets have indicated that the toxic chemical release in East Palestine, Ohio could be the largest environmental disaster is US history.
What does Vynyl Chloride smell like?
Vynyl Chloride has a mild, sweet odor and has been described as “new car smell”, “shower curtain smell”, or the light smell of gasoline. Why is this important? Imagine being the first responder on the scene of a large hazmat threat likened to the Norfolk Southern Railway/East Palistine. Would scent training give a first responder an advantage due to previous exposure to the smell of vynyl chloride? Our SensoryCo scent team believes that scent training benefits those on the scene.
- Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) Failures:
When there is a breach in a bio/hazard suit or a leak in protection goggles or air respirators, for example, a person can use their sense of smell to alert them to potential vapor threats. With appropriate scent training, a person can smell an odor and reference it as neutral or dangerous. This gives them the ability to get out of harm’s way and seek out appropriate clean-up response and/or medical attention if necessary.
- Situational Awareness:
If a person has undergone scent training, they will have an idea of the properties or smell characteristics of the dangerous materials that can hurt them. Taking a whiff of different scents in scent training helps people commit the smells to memory so they can assess a situation quickly and respond effectively in the field.
- Interviewing Witnesses to ID Smells
Often, first responders are dealing with the aftermath of a hazardous situation, and they must rely on witnesses to provide key information as to the when/where/how a problem started. If a person can describe a particular odor, hazmat crews with scent training are more likely to identify important sensory clues to the circumstances that lead to the hazardous situation in the first place.
HazMat Scent Training is Becoming a Necessity
According to The Guardian, “the US is averaging one chemical accident every two days.” 2023 examples include:
- 300 evacuated in California after a spill of caustic materials at a recycling facility.
- Residents shelter in place after an explosion and fire at a petrochemical plant in Louisiana.
- A large pipeline ruptured in rural northern Kansas, smothering the surrounding land and waterways in 588,000 gallons of diluted bitumen crude oil.
SensoryCo specializes in creating simulated hazmat scents that give first responders the ability to set different smells to memory without the deadly exposure associated with real chemical odors. Our scent library is based on scientific research, smell profiles, odor characteristics, and field information. The scents in our collection provide a solid foundation for scent training programs that can save lives.