drone certificationMiddletown Vinal Tech students complete simulated hazmat training, ‘pretty good, hands-on stuff’

November 5, 2021by helo-10

MIDDLETOWN — Students enrolled in the Criminal Justice And Protective Services Program at Vinal Technical High School spent parts of Wednesday and Thursday taking part in a realistic, but simulated hazardous material training exercise.

A tanker truck, donated by Charlie’s Water Wagon in Portland, sat in the back parking lot of the school. White smoke poured out of the tank, and a 185-pound dummy dressed in full firefighting gear lay next to the tanker.

The scene was a simulation of a hazardous material emergency that law enforcement and first responders might experience in the field on any given day.

In this simulation, however, it was not professional first responders who handled the emergency, but high school students taking a Criminal Justice and Protective Services class taught by David Cruickshank and Joseph Linskey, both former members of the Berlin Police Department.

“It’s pretty good, hands-on stuff,” Cruickshank said.

Students took turns handling the emergency. They were tasked with identifying the material that was spilled, choosing their level of protective equipment, suiting up in that equipment, rescuing the simulated “unconscious firefighter,” and stopping the leak.

In this case, the hazmat suits included three pairs of gloves, a full body suit, and an oxygen mask. Cruickshank said that it was as close to a real scenario as possible.

“The only thing that’s not real is the boot covers,” Cruickshank said, explaining that the real boot covers were a bit too expensive. “Otherwise it’s 100 percent what it would be like.”

This is the first year that Cruickshank has implemented this particular exercise into his curriculum. He said it’s part of his and Linskey’s shared goal of improving the lesson every year.

“We try to improve three things every year,” Cruickshank said.

He said this is because he and Linskey are both passionate about improving the profession, and that he is not the only teacher that feels that way.

“That’s what all the teachers here are doing,” Cruickshank said. “Just trying to make the future of their trade better.”

Brianna Nowakowski and Davia Wright are both juniors at Vinal Tech in the Criminal Justice and Protective Services class and for most of the simulated hazmat exercise, they were stationed outside, wearing reflective vests, directing traffic and monitoring the size of the material spill; another important role deployed for real hazmat emergencies.

“It’s a unique experience,” Wright said. “Not many high school students can say they put on a hazmat suit and dragged a dummy.”

Wright said she was drawn to the criminal justice aspect of the class because she hopes to be a lawyer one day. She said that she has greatly enjoyed the exposure to the other elements of the course.

“It builds on our professional experience,” Wright said.

Nowakowski said she has always been interested in the medical field, and she felt this course would help give her a jump start on a future in that field. She noted that students in the class all receive an EMT certification.

“We get that certificate at the end which will help in the future,” Nowakowski said.

According to Cruickshank, the EMT certification is just one of many that students in the class will receive, including a CPR certification, a FAA drone pilot license, and more.

He said that not all first responders necessarily receive the hazmat awareness certification that the students earned through this simulation exercise and other coursework.

Admission applications for Vinal Tech and the rest of the state’s technical high schools for the 2022-23 school year will become available in the second week of November, possibly as early as Friday, according to Kerry Markey, director of communications for the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System. More information can be found at cttech.org.

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