Oklahoma Air National Guardsman informs students of HAZMAT dangers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Justin M. Creech
  • 137th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
A member of the Oklahoma Air National Guard informed eighth-grade science students at Deer Creek Middle School in Edmond, Oklahoma, Sept. 8, 2015, on the dangers of mishandling hazardous materials.

Tech. Sgt. Tim Cotterall, 137th Civil Engineering Squadron emergency management specialist, spends time every September educating the students on the hazardous materials in the home that can cause serious injury.

"I talk to the students about how gasoline, peroxide, oil, ammonia, bleach and chlorine can be found in their home," said Cotterall. "I mention how these materials can be found under the kitchen sink, garage, or in the bathroom."

Cotterall gives seven back-to-back presentations to around 350 students. He warns them of the effects these chemicals can have if ingested, inhaled or if they come in contact with skin.

"You can mess up your lungs by inhaling household bleach," said Cotterall. "You can also damage your ocular nerve if something gets in your eye. Some of the students have younger brothers and sisters, so making sure caps are on bottles and the chemicals are out of reach help prevent injuries"

The presentations come during the hazardous material portion of the students' curriculum. Cotterall's lecture brings these terms to life by providing a real world connection, said Bill Gipperich, Deer Creek Middle School eighth-grade science teacher.

"He specifically asked us what vocabulary is in our curriculum," said Gipperich. "He worked terms like miscibility, hazardous, corrosive and toxic into the presentation by asking the students to define the terms and then would provide a real world example."

The real-life examples Cotterall shares are from training he has received for weapons of mass destruction scenarios.

"I tell them we have to be prepared, which is why it's important we wear the proper PPE (personal protection equipment), because we don't always know what we are getting into," said Cotterall. "I let them know inhalation is the easiest way a person can be affected by a chemical, so that's why we wear a self-contained breathing apparatus."

Cotterall approached Deer Creek Middle School about giving the lecture since he had done so for each of his children's science classes previously. According to Cotterall, National Guard members taking time to educate students is a win, since it shows how much the Guard cares about their safety.

"If one student sees our presence and decides they want to wear the uniform and be involved in the community on this level, that is a win," said Cotterall. "I want them to see that even though they may not see the real-world application of what they are learning now, there is one, and it's very important."