HazMat Team Spotlight: Lake County, Indiana

Slideshow Images: Lake County, Indiana HazMat Team Hazardous Materials Team Overview

Hazardous Materials Team Overview

Lake County Indiana is located in Northwest Indiana approximately 20 miles southeast of the City of Chicago. Lake County has 23 independent fire departments in the county with a combination of approximately 700 Career and 700 Volunteer firefighters. Fire departments in the county cover a geographical area of 456 square miles of land and the shore line of Lake Michigan at the northern end of the county. Lake County has a population of approximately 500,000. Fire departments in Lake County operate a total of 75 engine companies, 15 truck companies, 32 medic units, hazardous materials and special operations companies, 10 heavy rescue companies, 10 dive rescue teams, 23 brush units, 15 water tankers, 5 light units, collapse rescue team, trench rescue team, and high-angle rescue team. Through mutual aid with BP Amoco and U.S. Steel Fire Departments over 40,000 gallons of foam is available for firefighting purposes involving hazardous materials. Both BP and U.S. Steel have hazardous materials and technical rescue capabilities. The hazardous materials team is composed of several response units scattered throughout the county with staffing coming from fire departments in the county.

Lake County formed their hazardous materials team in 1992 with funding from BP Amoco Oil Company. Currently the team is funded by county government and administered by the Lake County Fire Chief's Association, Jack Eskridge Chairman. Todd Wilkening is the Hazardous Materials Coordinator for the county and Nick Dvorscak and Ron Svetic are his assistants. The hazardous materials team responds to an average of 300 hazardous materials calls a year. Statistics for hazmat responses do not include local engine runs for hydrocarbon fuel spills and natural gas leaks. Each engine company carries Bio/Chem for small hydrocarbon spills less than 200 gallons. When a spill is greater than 200 gallons the hazmat team responds.


The core of Lake County's hazardous materials response centers around three Chevy Suburban Quick Response Vehicles. The vast majority of calls are for consultation at incidents that occur in the county. Lake County's hazardous materials team has a number of equipment response vehicles and trailers located throughout the county. Trailers with hazardous materials response equipment are located in Crown Point, Dyer, and Whiting. A mass decontamination trailer is located in Schererville. "Mini"-decontamination trailers for use at county hospitals are located in Dyer, Crown Point, Gary, East Chicago, Hammond, Munster, Hobart, and Merrillville. Local fire departments respond to the hospitals with the trailers when mass decontamination is required at the hospital. Many of the county's hospitals also have decontamination rooms associated with the emergency room as well. Hazardous materials teams associated with city fire departments in East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, and Ross Township with hazmat response vehicles, personnel, and equipment are also located within Lake County. Each of the teams from Gary, East Chicago, Hammond, and Ross Township as well as the other trailer units in Crown Point and Schererville can function as independent hazmat teams with the equipment they carry. However, when making a county response all of the team components function as a single county response team.

Quick response Suburbans carry monitoring equipment, laptop computer, reference resources, thermal imaging camera, might vision equipment, bunker gear, and limited hazmat PPE. The bulk of hazardous materials responses in the county involve the quick response vehicles. Other hazmat trailers and vehicles in the county carry typical hazardous materials response equipment. Equipment carried on board includes decontamination, entry PPE, respiratory protection and other standard hazardous materials response equipment.


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