Nevada firm stakes training claim

ICS Training Leader
By Anton Riecher
IFW Editor

There are only two ways to get your name added to the Nevada Firefighters Memorial Inc. In 2011, James Powell of All Clear Training & Consulting had his name added in recognition of his 42-years of dedication to the Nevada Fire Service.

Other than the 15 people like Powell who have received the association’s Distinguished Service Award since 1984, the remaining 61 names on the monument belong to fallen firefighters who died in the line of duty.

“My goal these days to keep people off that part of the monument,” Powell said.

Powell, who retired as Chief of Operations for the Carson City (NV) Fire Department in 1997, founded All Clear to provide specialized fire training and consulting services for fire departments both in Nevada, nationwide and internationally.

“There was a need,” Powell said. “Nevada is primarily a rural state and fire departments needed technical services that were not being fulfilled by any other venue. So I started offering hazardous materials training and other special operations classes.”

Training offered by All Clear that relates to industrial emergencies include how to run an emergency operations center, industrial incident command, hazardous materials on scene incident command, serving as an industrial incident safety officer, industrial strategy and tactics, industrial brigade team leader, hazardous materials operations, hazardous materials awareness, and emergency response to terrorism including basic concepts, operations and command.

In 2001, Powell became an adjunct instructor at FSA by letter

“I look at the world of industrial fire fighting through the prism that you have an extremely high risk factor with a low frequency of events,” Powell said. “The skill sets that are necessary to control emergencies in the industrial setting are not utilized as often as they should be so I incorporate many scenarios as possible into my industrial incident command classes to develop and hone those skill sets.”

Powell uses numerous classroom exercises to teach, including the use of a digital combustion program.

“I take a photo of some target hazard, import it into a computer program, then apply the fire and smoke electronically,” Powell said. “I have them fight the fire on screen from the initial attack to the full-blown long-term event.”

Somewhat like the opening scenes of the old television show “Mission Impossible,” Powell hires his trainers as needed, referring to a book filled with the resumes of key experts in the required field.

“For instance, I have a fellow that works with me named Todd Long who is a retired industrial fire chief from Shell in California,” Powell said. “When I need him to help me with an audit or a class, I call him. When I need someone who is a hazardous materials expert to help with an emergency plan or a specific hazard, I’ll recruit someone qualified.”

Powell, a native of the California wine country, spent part of his childhood living at a California Division of Forestry fire station.

“In those days they had some residents staying at their stations year around,” Powell said. “My dad worked for them and I lived there. As a young man I was impressed by the firefighters I was around.”

In 1968 Powell became a volunteer with the Carson City Nevada Fire Department. The following year he joined full time and stayed for the next 29 years. His last six years there were spend as battalion chief in charge of the operations division.

“The Carson City Fire Department is a full service department delivering firefighter paramedic ambulance service, Level “A” haz-mat, structural and wildland fire fighting, confined space rescue, trench rescue and rope rescue,” Powell said.

Even before retirement, Powell started All Clear as a sideline, working with rural Nevada fire departments. Much of that work involving training to deal with hazardous materials emergencies.

“It is very costly to organize and keep a Level “A” team,” Powell said. “These departments had to do some very creative things. My own department created a regional hazmat team including the five counties surrounding us to better utilize our resources.”

Upon retiring, Powell took a job with ERT Consulting as a lead instructor, focusing on industrial emergencies. He served as ERT’s principal planner for hazardous materials and counter-terrorism response.

Two years later, Powell joined the staff of the University of Nevada, Reno Fire Science Academy to teach industrial incident command, strategy and tactics.

“I started out doing strategy and tactics on the fire field,” Powell said. “That developed into rewriting their incident command course to make it NIMS compliant.”

After 9/11 in 2001, there was a big rush for the kind of training that was Powell’s specialty.

“In my opinion you can’t have a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) event unless it is hazardous materials related, so there was a big push to get up to speed on developing what it takes to handle a WMD-hazmat event,” Powell said.

In 2001, Powell became an adjunct instructor at FSA by letter of appointment. Later he served as a part-time instructor and chief with the Northern Nevada Fire and Rescue Academy and as an adjunct instructor with the Nevada State Fire Marshall’s office.

He later served on the Nevada State Board of Fire Services Standards and Training Committee.

Powell’s Master Instructor background includes certification in hazardous material response and on scene incident command. He is also involved in wildland fire control, previously holding a federal RED Card as a Type III incident commander and division group supervisor.

He has also written SARA Title III hazardous materials planning and response plans for several government entities.

Powell’s company is among those trying to fill the void left when the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents elected to close FSA lasts year after years of financial difficulties.

“The academy drew heavily from most of the members of the Western States Petroleum Association,” Powell said. “Now those people have to head to the mid-west to get their training.”

As an alternative, Powell is offering his classroom version to draw industrial firefighters to the Reno area.

“They can have the class and enjoy what Reno has to offer – beautiful Lake Tahoe, snow in the winter and lots of recreational opportunities in the summer,” Powell said.