- Slideshow Images: Charles County, MD, Hazmat Team
Charles County is located in South Central Maryland and borders the Potomac River and the State of Virginia on the South, Maryland Counties of St. Mary's on the Southeast, Prince Georges on the North and Calvert on the East. Charles County is considered part of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. Charles County was established in 1658 and covers an approximate area of 215 square miles with an estimated population in 2006 of over 140,000. La Plata is the county seat and the location of the Charles County Tactical Response Team, which handles hazmat response in the county. The tactical response team is a part of the Charles County Office of Emergency Services under the direction of Donald P. McGuire. Fire service in Charles County is provided by all volunteer fire companies through out the county. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is provided by both career and volunteer personnel and is also a part of the Charles County Office of Emergency Services.
Charles County's Tactical Response Team was organized in December of 2003. Previously, hazmat response was handled by the volunteer fire companies in the county with mutual aid from hazmat teams in Prince George's County, Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren, Virginia and Indian Head Volunteer Fire Department & Rescue Squad. Many of the volunteer firefighters in Charles County are career firefighters in other departments. On September 11, 2001 a large number of the counties volunteers were recalled by their career departments. Military agencies were locked down and could not provide mutual aid. This situation left Charles County stripped of its fire protection and hazmat response capabilities. As a result the county decided they needed to create an in-house hazmat response capability utilizing county employees rather than relying on others that might not be available all the time. Applications were initially received from 42 county employees to become a part of the team. The idea was that they would remain county employees with their present jobs and respond when a call for the Tactical Response Team was needed. A full time Tactical Response Team Chief was hired to organize and provide leadership for the team. All members of the team are paid for their duties on the team.
Personnel from other county departments who are team members include eight from the emergency medical services, eight from the county sheriff's office, two from county communications, one from county public facilities, 1 from county animal control. 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 utilized to maintain the operational readiness of the team. These include one technician from the U.S. Capitol Police, five from the Pentagon Force Protection Agency and two retired from Naval District Washington.
Charles County's Tactical Response Team responds to an average of 128 calls for hazardous materials assistance annually. Engine companies in the county carry absorbent materials and handle fuel spills up to approximately 55 gallons. For spills above 55 gallons the hazmat team is called in. All fire companies in the county carry four-gas meters which monitor for Explosive Limits (LEL), Oxygen, Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Sulfur Dioxide.
Charles County's hazardous materials response vehicles include: 2004 Pierce Hazmat Response Unit, 2003 Hazmat Support Trailer, 2005 Technical Decontamination Trailer, 2005 Ford 4x4 Hazmat Utility, 2006 Mass Casualty Trailer, 2007 Bauer Air Support Trailer, 2005 Hazmat Light Tower, Flat Bed drive on trailer, 2002 Mule 4x4, 1994 Chevrolet Hazmat Command Unit and 1990 Chevrolet Hazmat Support Unit. Equipment carried on the units is typical plug and patch, spill containment and clean-up, entry and decontamination equipment.