HAMMER turns 15 - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

HAMMER turns 15

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NEAR RICHLAND, Wash. - Hanford's HAMMER Training and Education Center is one of the top training facilities in the world. Whether it's nuclear cleanup workers, homeland security or emergency responders, HAMMER is the hot spot for training.

HAMMER stands for Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response. It technically began back in 1986 as a community training center. In 1994 Sam Volpentest then convinced Congress and the Department of Energy that hands-on training was necessary. In 1997, 15 years ago this month, the Volpentest HAMMER Training and Education Center opened.

"We've become the model across the entire D.O.E. Complex as the model for safety that is really because of the engine that we have here with HAMMER," said Matt McCormick of the Richland D.O.E. office. "The HAMMER facility and the HAMMER staff and the excellent work they have been doing through the various years."

The 80-acre HAMMER campus has life-sized props for safety and training in everything from firefighting to fall prevention. The newest addition is a U.S. State Department Field Exercise Building and it was dedicated Thursday.

"This building and this classroom will be used to the fullest extent," said Paul B van Son of the Department of State. "Teaching the very latest techniques, hands on training, "as real as it gets," as the motto goes... To train not only us but everyone around. All our friends and allies who come here."

Border enforcement, military and law enforcement personnel from all over the world will make use of the new building.

"This new facility that we're all in today will significantly improve the quality of the training, that's clear," said Tony Peurrung of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "And lower the cost of the training and take place year round. It will no longer be interrupted as has happened in the past due to inclement weather."