Hazardous Materials Response For "The Biggest Little City in the World"

Reno — promoted as "The Biggest Little City in the World" — is in western Nevada near the California border, 26 miles north of the capital of Carson City and 22 miles northeast of Lake Tahoe, CA, in the high desert. The county seat of Washoe County...


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Reno Hazmat's operational procedures emphasize analysis and monitoring of incident scenes to mitigate emergencies more quickly and shrink the required distances of "hot zones." Using this process, the team has reduced average incident time from six hours to 45 minutes. Hazmat team members are trained to be analysis "experts." One primary tool for on-scene analysis is a laboratory-grade portable Inflicon Hapsite mass chromograph gas spectrometer used to identify unknown liquids and gases. This is an expensive instrument and very few departments have this resource available to them because of the cost. Additional equipment available includes radiation monitors, Area Rae, chlorine and carbon monoxide detectors, four-gas meters, HazCat kits, Foxbough-HID/PID for organic vapors, Guardian Reader for biologicals and the M256 kits for WMD. The Hazcat Kit involves chemical analysis to identify unknown materials or identify chemical families they belong to. All trucks, rescue units and chiefs carry four-gas meters. Station 3 houses a maintenance and calibration shop operated by hazmat technicians for testing, calibration and maintenance of monitoring equipment.

Computer-related and hard-copy reference information carried on the hazmat unit includes NIOSH Pocket Guide, ERG, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, U.S. Coast Guard CHRIS Manual, CAMEO, TOXNET, Farm Chemical Handbook, IFSTA manuals relating to hazardous materials response and an MSDS database.

Additional information about the regional hazmat team and its operations is available by contacting Division Chief Bob Knoll at 775-334-2315.

ROBERT BURKE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is the fire marshal for the University of Maryland-Baltimore. He is a Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFSP), Fire Inspector II, Fire Inspector III, Fire Investigator and Hazardous Materials Specialist, and has served on state and county hazardous materials response teams. Burke is an adjunct instructor at the National Fire Academy and the Community College of Baltimore, Catonsville Campus, and the author of the textbooks Hazardous Materials Chemistry for Emergency Responders and Counter-Terrorism for Emergency Responders. He can be contacted at robert.burke@att.net.