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Electronic Information Resources

The difference in how information resources were used in the field during the 1980’s and 1990’s and how they are accessed now is truly amazing. In days ago, volumes of textbooks were needed to be carried in plastic bins with concern and inventory for the latest versions. Updating became expensive, as well as time consuming when awaiting new hard copies to replace older issues inside your “bin.” Once a newer version was available, version retraining was sometimes needed. If this text was rightly kept onboard your response vehicle, often trips to your storage garage were required from team members. This further lengthened the time lag for getting the team “up-to-date” on manipulating new formats of some texts.

Today, almost all this data can be accessed or downloaded to your pocket phone. This means “all” members of the team can have 24/7 access to the resources without awaiting the arrival of your hazmat truck or the mailman. Additionally, access can be anywhere at any time for needed training with newer versions. This research can take place anytime the Team member has spare time. The big picture can now utilize ANY hours for Information Resources Training. More precious scheduled training time can be diverted to hands-on activities. Space on your response vehicle can be freed from loaded “bins.” While the Internet may have limits, these will become non-existent.

While total elimination of hardbound texts would be ill-advised, you may begin by limiting new revision costs. This case for debate comes from the regulatory industry. The plain truth of the matter is that since the 1970’s, the chemical industry has attempted to become more and more “green”. By this I mean they have been given incentives from government to replace dangerous chemicals with more benign precursors allowing for a more “green” overall production capability. This feature alone is safer for responders, environment, and citizens that may be exposed. The overall reduction of “extremely hazardous substances” lessens the need for mass evacuations. Once you make the decision to whittle-down your hardbound resources to the “sacred few” (that you cannot do without), electronic resources require careful study and reflection.

  There are many features that you may want to purchase in your electronic resources and that is ultimately at the discretion of your teams’ wallet, and your group decision. But there are a few that standout, and at least should be considered by your team.

1] Cost

2] Updates

3] Source

4] Accessibility

Let’s look at each one of these as a focus for team discussions. A beneficial way to approach any decision regarding “pre-planning” for an incident is via group discussion. Never underestimate the contribution of team members to the discussion. Often, a fresh perspective can open a door to future challenges not presently seen. When this strategy is not used, it may be too late to correct a bad decision/purchase. Cost should not be directly associated with quality, but rather the intent of the informational group should delineate quality. Many electronic information resources that are FREE are so due to this intent. Those that are more concerned with the safety and efficiency of first responders and environmental remediation offer these services for the betterment of humanity and the environment. In most cases, this is the direction your team will want to follow. Your Team should consider, information resources be examined from the perspective of benefit to humanity, environment, and team safety during operation, not others profit. Resources of value are listed in the “links” section of this website.

Updates are always a concern, (which is why you used to purchase new textbooks) and are either free to the user or require a yearly fee. This “cost-fee” may be legitimate, and is a consideration for your organization depending on what features you want to offer your teammates. If they are substance oriented you may judge them to be necessary to the total effectiveness of your team’s operation at an incident.

The source of these electronic information resources is important for safe operations. Some that offer user adaptation to new information may not be reliable. Even with monitoring, who is doing the correcting if needed? Those that charge fees may have legitimacy and provide a service that you just cannot find for free. Here again, your decision is critical as once you purchase, your source will continue to need these updates throughout its life with your response team. Government sources such as DOT, EPA, and CHEMTREC specifically offer these resources to help the Haz-Mat Team. The old expression, “consider the source” takes on a new level of reflection for the hazardous materials “Specialist” when considering these purchase selections.

Accessibility is best suited to those of your team that have advanced wireless Internet skills. These are the team members who can best contribute towards the discussion of accessibility vs. location. Rely on your computer “geeks” so that you will not be “without access” on your next incident response. Electronic information resources will continue to be the future, if your team is behind, begin catching-up so your information resources will yield the correct identification. Having these important resources always at hand benefits not only the team, but also the first responder who may arrive without “Haz-Mat” personnel onboard their first response vehicle.

                              Haz Mat Mike     

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