HAMMER stands for Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response, and was named for Sam Volpentest, a long-time community leader and advocate of the Hanford Site who passed away in 2005 at the age of 101. HAMMER provides the training opportunities and facilities that support the Hanford Site missions and the Hanford workforce. HAMMER is operated by the Mission Support Alliance (MSA) contractor. Training provided by HAMMER staff is more than computer based learning or classroom instruction. Adult learning techniques are applied such as demonstrations, exercises, and hands-on training. Each training event focuses on providing “Training as real as it gets” which is also the slogan for the Volpentest HAMMER Training Facility at Hanford. About 40,000 student days of training are conducted at HAMMER each year, representing the actual number of days that students are in classes or training using the facilities on the Site. Since opening its doors in 1997, more than 548,000 student days of training have been conducted at HAMMER.
The facility sits on 80-acres of land and was built at a cost of nearly $30 million (over $70 million in today’s dollars). HAMMER’s primary mission is to provide a safe and high-quality training experience to Hanford workers engaged in environmental cleanup activities. Under DOE’s new mission support contract HAMMER is responsible to continue implementation of consistent and standardized safety and health training for Hanford users. The delivery of this standardized training helps to ensure the safety of Hanford workers who work in many different locations across the Site. Courses are offered which directly support a number of different DOE cleanup-related projects. Dozens of buildings and props on the HAMMER campus provide hands-on, practical experiences for students. For example, students can read about the various kinds of radiation they could encounter at Hanford, and then physically “dress out” in protective clothing and enter a simulated radiation zone to practice how to safely perform a task in that kind of an environment. Tribal leaders have worked with HAMMER officials to develop a site where students working in and around Native American culturally sensitive sites at Hanford are able to do their jobs without disturbing the land or the tribal artifacts.
When it comes to remediating the waste sites at Hanford, on-the-job training or the “trial and error” method of doing work are not options. Since Hanford work is often done in an environment where radioactive or chemical wastes are present, it is critical that crews assigned to clean up those areas are fully trained in the best and safest ways to get the job done. Experience with the task or topic typically provides a better learning experience. Experience at Hanford provides additional value in the instruction. HAMMER and its relationship with labor groups has resulted in a strong “worker-instructor” program. Many HAMMER classes are taught by Hanford employees who have demonstrated their expertise through successfully completing Site missions in the field and are willing to share this experience as an instructor.
HAMMER’s reputation as a first-rate training center has resulted in the facility expanding its mission to include non-Hanford related class work and customers. HAMMER now contracts with emergency response agencies to offer classes in areas like fire suppression, hostage rescue, high-speed pursuit, and drug enforcement. A new agreement with the US State Department has expanded HAMMER’s curriculum in the training of international border patrol agents and homeland security efforts including the construction of a $2.25 million facility that was dedicated in March of 2009.
As with training for Hanford jobs, the HAMMER campus provides similar hands-on practice and real world experience for non-Hanford customers. For example, students can crawl through buildings with interchangeable mazes and hidden dangers to learn search and rescue methods. A propane-fueled fire caused by an overturned railcar with dangerous vapors leaving the wreck shows students how to put out the fire and protect the environment. A six-story building gives firefighters the chance to train on how to bring down injured people from high-rise structures that are on fire.
For more information about the Volpentest HAMMER Center please visit: http://www.hammertraining.com/