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Georgia Firefighters Form Association for Hazardous Materials Technicians

Two firefighters from Georgia have formed a new association for Hazardous Materials Technicians. The International Association of Hazardous Materials Technicians (IAHMT) is an association for hazardous materials technicians in the fire service and private industry.

The association began after the two firefighters attended a training class at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Alabama, giving them COBRA training on weapons of mass destruction for hazardous materials technicians.

"After we got back from the training class, we realized we had some work to do to be fully prepared for a WMD incident," said Chris Smith, one of the firefighters who co-formed the association. "We started contacting other fire departments in the country to see what was working for them and found a lot of teams are in the same situation we are in."

After realizing this, Smith and Firefighter Ben Holley, who are members of a hazardous materials response team, began planning an association that opens a line of communication between hazmat technicians all over the country. "By communicating with other departments, we can learn what they have found to work and what to stay clear of," said Holley.

Membership into the association is free to all hazmat technicians, and the association offers networking with other hazmat techs through their website at The website is loaded with information on training opportunities, hazmat products, software downloads, and the largest bookstore of hazmat related books on the internet. The website also contains a list of hazmat teams across the country so that teams can find each other. "Our list of teams is small but growing: we get new members and links to teams everyday," said Smith.

Manufacturers, manufacturing representatives, and distributors are also members of the association. One of the primary goals of the association was to help hazmat teams find the most relevant products available. "It is extremely difficult to find products for hazmat response on the internet," said Holley. "We searched for hours for new monitors and equipment for our decon line. The internet has become so cluttered with information that finding what you are looking for can become quite cumbersome."

"The IAHMT website lists hazmat related products so you can quickly find different choices. One of the most important factors of a hazmat team is having the right tools for the job. It makes our jobs easier and reduces the chance of injury to responders," said Captain Spencer Miller, a member of the same hazmat team as Smith and Holley. The manufacturers find membership very beneficial. "We are apart of this association because new products and changes in regulation are constant in this industry," said Ernie Younkins, a product manager with one of the associations' listed manufacturers.

The association also has a research and development department that performs research on current hazmat products and recommends improvements or new products all together. "Many hazmat technicians have recommended new products for development. We currently have four new product inventions that we are searching for manufacturers to produce," said Smith. The association welcomes any new product recommendations. "We perform research and determine if the product is needed and if it improves safety. We then search for manufacturers to make the products, and the person who originally submitted the idea usually receives compensation from the product manufacturer," stated Smith. "The focus of the R&D department however, is to improve hazmat response safety with new products and not to become invention brokers."

The IAHMT has also recently developed an awards program. The association will begin awarding for categories such as 'Hazmat Technician of the Year', 'Hazmat Team of the Year', and 'Hazmat Product of the Year'. "We felt creating a method of rewarding the individuals and teams that are working hard everyday to make the world a safer place would be a great way to stimulate growth in the world of hazmat response," stated Holley.

The world of hazardous materials is getting bigger everyday, mainly due to ongoing threats of terrorism. Hazmat teams are springing up all across the nation in record numbers. The IAHMT exists to unify hazardous materials response, and to make it possible for teams all over the nation to work together safely.

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