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Haz Mat "Specialist Course"
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Saint Paul's Church Baltimore, MD 1692

While moving my studio and going through mountains of papers, I ran across an old parchment dated from 1692 copied from Saint Paul’s church in Baltimore. I assume these were given or sold as souvenirs to vacationers visiting the site.       

While reading through these profound thoughts and statements, it occurred to me how they too should be used in the formation and operation of hazardous materials response teams. Your Team, as life, should have decorum of internal operation. It is this feature that will make your Team safe and successful. The functionality of a dependable Team relies on member unity. You exist as a “group” entity. This extends beyond profit and is the real reason for becoming a member of a Hazardous Material “Team.”

This month, I would offer you the “reasons” you should base your operations within your Team. The following eight (8) rules should be added to your “tool-box” concerning all Haz-Mat Team functions/operations.

1] Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

          Before, during and after an incident place your Team’s integrity, experience and skills first and foremost when dealing with all outsiders. Take the time to reflect before making life decisions. What is spilling or has spilled is not going anywhere. Contamination needs remedial clean-up, what does it matter if it is 5 gallons or 500? But if a life is placed in jeopardy, just for the sake of “speed” you have failed. 

          Realize that different players in an emergency incident have different concerns. They may not be “oriented to emergency operations” as you are. Give them a little slack, the emotionalism of the incident may be high and cause them to respond to your questions in an excited irrational way. Most organizations do not respond to emergencies every day like yours does. What is “old hat” to you may be exciting and upsetting to them. Take this into consideration before reacting to their remarks; they may be under a lot of stress.

          Lastly, always remain professional in your solutions, getting excited and demanding only shows a lack of professionalism and inexperience. Every small piece of information often helps your final decision, discount no-one involved, regardless of their position at the incident.

2] Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

          Be wary of self-proclaimed “experts” the loud-mouths usually contribute the least. Strive to be the best you can, not to mirror someone else. These people have faults that you may not see, and they may be worse than yours. Maintain the attitude of, “I am here to help.” Be gracious; include the “Team” in your plans and achievements.

3] Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

          By staying focused in your field of study you hone and refine those skills necessary for maximum performance. Too much expansion, away from the point of your operations can lead you down a path of allowing others to take advantage of your enthusiasm for the field to get what they want. This is usually detrimental to your Team. Members who follow in your footsteps demonstrate these heroic principles and strengthen your Team, embrace their efforts.

4] Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

          Honesty above all, shared with your Team members demonstrates a strength that shall defeat any adversity your Team may face. This will grow from year to year providing a base that is unshakeable. A team that holds truth close to its foundation is “solid” and resists any adversary, physical or financial.

5] Take kindly the counsel of years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

          As you rise through your Team organization, realize that your job changes from the youthful energetic entry-team member to “Instructor of the Teams future.” It now becomes your “role” to train the future of your Team. Revel in this, and use your experience to enhance the skills and safety of young team members. Appreciate your ascension within the team organization and develop it into a confident “go-to-source” for those young members that need security when difficult incidents occur.

6] You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

          Your hard work, skill, and passion have gotten where you are today, where you desire to be. Regardless of any personal set-backs with-in the Team, you deserve the mantle of Team member. Celebrate this status, the superfluous irritations will sort themselves out and disappear, they are not worthy of your consideration.

7] Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

          However difficult Team issues or organizational troubles may become, remember why you are involved in this pursuit. The protection of life and the environment is a noble calling that fulfills your spirit and leaves the planet better off when YOU contribute. This is the legacy your life will leave behind for others to emulate, heroism in its pure sense. Your skills protect life and the planet, while making you, “part of the solution” rather than part of the problem.

8] With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

          Enjoy your Team’s pursuits; the mediocrity is why they call it work. Keeping Team members safe will cause everyone to return unharmed. Take pride in your Team’s efforts, this shall bring you joy.

                                           Haz Mat Mike


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