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Billings battalion chief learns about radiation during overseas training

Jason Lyon.jpg
Posted at 7:19 PM, Oct 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-25 21:19:08-04

A Billings fire battalion chief and six members of the Montana Regional Hazmat Team recently traveled overseas to learn about what to do during a radiation explosion.

"The machine tells you it's Cesium 137," said Jason Lyon, battalion chief and the city's hazmat program manager, in a recent interview with MTN News.

Lyon trained with a device capable of detecting and identifying the type of radiation.

"Determining what type of isotope you're dealing with helps you make good tactical decisions," Lyon said.

He and his Billings crew were among Montana hazmat teams training in Nevada, using a Department of Homeland Security Response doctrine.

Afterward, he received a call about the overseas opportunity.

"Do some work with foreign partners and exercise that plan and then evaluate its efficacy," Lyon said about the reason for the training.

The others on the regional team are from Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and Kalispell.

For security reasons, the chief could not say where he trained or provide video or pictures of the training.

"Extremely low frequency but high-risk event is worthy of local, state, federal partners practicing for," Lyon said about what he described as a dirty bomb.

He said a bomb with radioactive material was exploded. The radiation detected inside buildings is much less than ambient radiation outside.

"Sheltering in place while first responders determine where radioactive material is or isn't, protects both you and your family," Lyon said. "And also allows first responders to determine the safest ways for people to evacuate if evacuation is necessary."

He also learned that in areas with drier air, the radiation particles transferring is minimal. And they don't as easily stick to equipment and or get inside vehicles and structures.

"To decontaminate people in that environment, we would shorten things down considerably," he said as compared to older protocols.

The tactics and techniques will work with other emergencies such as the chemical spill.

He said the overseas training will help the city of Billings and departments all over the state.