Hazmat Studies: Meet Charles County’s Tactical Response Team

Charles County, considered to be part of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, is in south-central Maryland and borders the Potomac River and Virginia on the south, the Maryland counties of St. Mary’s on the southeast, Prince George’s on the north...


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The TRT also operates a 25-foot Parker boat and a 17-foot Zodiac boat and purchased two new boats (a 28-foot Zodiac LE Series Enforcer and a 25-foot Sea Ark LE Series) that were scheduled to be delivered in late February. All vessels are equipped with CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives) detectors and thermal imaging equipment. The marine unit’s primary function is narcotics interdiction and enforcement, counter-terrorism interdiction and maritime hazmat mitigation (oil boom deployment). It has 3,500 feet of booms available and has applied for a U.S. Coast Guard shipping container full of booms. As the only clandestine drug lab-certified hazmat team in southern Maryland, the Charles County TRT assisted the Coast Guard’s St. Inigoes Station in a meth lab investigation aboard a 35-foot sailboat and other incidents on Maryland’s waterways.here are currently 35 hazmat technicians on the team under the direction of Chief John Filer and Assistant Chief Stephen Finch. Typically, four hazmat technicians are on duty during business hours, the chief and three from the emergency medical services. Other team members carry pagers and are on call 24/7 and alerted when needed for a response. After hours, a duty officer is on call and all team members are paged when a response is required.

Personnel from Charles County departments and other agencies who are team members include 15 from Charles County Emergency Services and 10 from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. Since all hazmat responses and training are in addition to their regular 40-hour jobs, full-time county personnel are paid overtime for hazmat activities. Part-time personnel are also used to maintain the operational readiness of the team. These include one technician from the U.S. Capitol Police, six from the Pentagon Force Protection Agency and one from the Maryland State Police.

Indian Head’s Special Unit 9 responds with the TRT to hazmat incidents as needed. Special Unit 9 is outfitted with a 750-gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank and 50-gallon A and B foam tank. Indian Head has 15 hazmat technicians, 30 operations-level personnel and six certified hazmat incident commanders. Mutual aid is also available from Prince George’s County, although outside assistance is not often needed because of the Charles County team’s extensive equipment, well-trained personnel and operational capabilities. Bomb squad services are provided by the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) response team also provides assistance to the TRT when requested.

 

Training Requirements

The Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI), which also has a training center in La Plata, provides the technician-level training required for all members of the Charles County team. Additional training is provided by sending personnel to the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium training programs. These include Bechtel Nevada, Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University, New Mexico Tech and the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, AL. Firefighters in the county are trained to the hazmat operations level. Some volunteer firefighters who are members of career departments may also be trained to the technician level. In addition to hazmat training, some team members are trained in rope, confined-space, trench and dive rescue.

All TRT personnel attend 12 three-hour drills each year. Some team members are career hazmat personnel on other departments and have attended additional training at the National Fire Academy. Personnel are trained to do flaring of railcars, although they do not have their own welders, and they have complete off-load capability.

 

Hazmat Equipment

Monitoring capabilities include: QRAE four-gas meter; QRAE Multi Meter; Gas-Trac combustible gas detector; Drger Chemical Detection System; Drger Clandestine Lab Detection System; Drger Colormetric Tubes; Texas Instruments four-gas meter (Indian Head); Texas Instruments Chloride Pro Gas Badges (Indian Head); Texas Instruments Sulfur Dioxide Pro Gas Badges (Indian Head); WEI CD 200 Combustible Gas Leak Detector (Indian Head); PCB test kits (Indian Head); and mercury swabs and absorbent (Indian Head). Radiation monitors include: RAD60 Dosimeter; RAD50 Alpha/Beta/Gamma Probe and Gamma Scout. Level A chemical protection is provided by Tychem TK, Level B by Tyvec and respiratory protection by Scott 4.5 CBRN. The team has a Bauer air cascade system on a trailer. Communications are provided using Motorola 800 XTS5000 intrinsically safe portables with Radiocom headsets.

 

WMD Capabilities

Charles County’s TRT is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Type 1 CBRN team. Much of Charles County’s WMD equipment is part of the NCR resources. The team also responds in a three-county area to Maryland’s St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles counties. Additionally, the TRT is part of the Maryland Tactical Operations Group (MTOG), of which the Coast Guard is the lead agency. It may also be called on to respond to the Port of Baltimore. Past incidents have included a man with a pipe bomb, a clandestine drug lab and white-powder incidents.

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For questions and additional information, contact Chief John L. Filer of the Charles County Tactical Response Team at filerj@charlescounty.org or Chief Jeff Williams of the Indian Head Volunteer Fire Department at jwilleng9@aol.com.