Key West firefighters and other emergency responders got hands-on training this week in handling hazardous materials as part of an ongoing class.
They are the latest crop of local emergency workers to undergo the special training that will win them required certifications.
"It is a complete preparation for anything from a gas leak to spilled fuel or worse," said city spokeswoman Alyson Crean. "It is total containment training, and the hands-on part is really important."
On Thursday morning, firefighters finished an initial 80-hour training block, the first half of a 160-hour course. The training, valued at $50,000, was provided through a grant from the International Association of Firefighters, which sent instructors from Ohio to teach the course.
In front of Station 3 on Kennedy Drive, the students donned special "spacesuit" type hazmat outfits, practicing containment of liquids and gases.
After sealing mock containers, each trainee underwent a decontamination shower outside the truck bay.
Crean said donning the suits and working in them is essential to future safety.
"They have to be comfortable wearing these suits, which are big balloons with gas masks, and have to be ready not to touch each other and to go through decontamination," Crean said. "It's all about safety. They will need to be recertified every year."
Other firefighters in Key West and surrounding communities already are certified, a process required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The second half of the course will be taught in January, but by local instructors.
Hazardous material incidents are those situations in which responders must identify, contain and stop the source of leaking chemicals or other dangerous substances.