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HazMat Team/Tactical Response Team Spotlight: Charles County, Maryland

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.

Vehicle(s)

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.

Staffing

There are currently 31 hazmat technicians on the team under the direction of Chief William Stephens and Assistant Chief Adam Weiss. The team headquarters is located at 10425 Audie Lane in La Plata, MD. Typically there are four hazmat technicians on duty during normal 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.

Mutual Aid

Indian Head Volunteer Fire Department "Special Unit 9" responds with the Charles County Tactical Team to hazmat incidents as needed. Special Unit 9 is a 2000 Peterbilt with a 750 gpm pump and 500-gallon water tank. It also has a 50-gallon A & B foam tank. Indian Head has 15 hazmat technicians, 30 operations level and six certified hazmat incident commanders. Special Unit 9 is equipped with a laptop computer with CAMEO, ALOHA, wireless internet and printer. Bomb squad services are provided by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office.

Training Requirements

Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI), which also has a training center in La Plata, provides technician level training for the team. Hazmat Technician Level for all team members. Firefighters in the county are trained to the hazmat operations level. In addition to hazardous materials training some team members are also trained for rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue and dive rescue. All team personnel attend 12 three-hour drills each year.

Monitoring Instruments & Identification Equipment

Monitoring capabilities include:

  • QRAE 4 Gas Meter
  • QRAE Multi Meter
  • Gas-Trac Combustible Gas Detector
  • Draeger Chemical Detection System
  • Chemical Classifier
  • Draeger Clandestine Lab Detection System
  • Draeger Colormetric Tubes
  • Texas Instrument 4 gas meter (Indian Head)
  • Texas Instrument Chloride Pro Gas Badges (Indian Head)
  • Texas Instrument Sulfur Dioxide Pro Gas Badges (Indian Head)
  • WEI CD 200 Combustible Gas Leak Detector (Indian Head)
  • PCB Test Kits (Indian Head)
  • Mercury Swabs & absorbent (Indian Head)

Radiation Monitors:

  • RAD60 Dosimeter
  • RAD50 Alpha/Beta/Gama Probe
  • Gamma Scout

WMD Monitors:

  • APD 2000 - Chemical Detector
  • RAMP Bio-toxin Detection System

Identification Kits:

  • HAZCAT Basic

Personnel Protective Equipment

Level A

  • Tychem TK

Level B

  • Tyvec

Respiratory Protection

  • Scott 4.5 CBRN

Communications

  • Motorola 800 XTS5000 intrinsically safe portables with Radiocom headsets including chest positioned PTTs.

Research Resources

Computer Software

  • Cameo
  • CHRIS Manual
  • Hazmaster G3
  • Aloha
  • Marplot
  • Emergency Response Guide
  • Clandestine Drug Lab Wizard

Hard Copy Reference Books

  • Hazardous Materials Field Guide
  • Hazardous Material Chemistry
  • Merck Index
  • NIOSH Guide for Industrial Chemicals
  • NIOSH Guide to Chemical Hazards
  • Emergency Handling of Hazardous Materials in Surface Transportation Farm Chemicals Handbook
  • GATX Tank Car Manual
  • Hawleys Condensed Chemical Dictionary
  • Sittigs Handbook of Toxic and Hazrdous Chemicals and Carcinogens
  • TLVs and DEIs Guidebook
  • Matheson Gas Data Handbook
  • Gardner's Chemical Synonyms and Trade Names
  • Tomes Plus Advanced Hazmat Life Support
  • Tempest Chem-Bio First Responder Guide
  • Medical Management of Biological, Chemical, Radiological Casualties Handbooks Janes Chem-Bio Handbook

Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines

Check with the Charles County Tactical Response Team for specific SOP/SOG's

Hazardous Materials Exposures

There is one railroad line in the county along with several pipelines. Major transportation routes include Maryland 5, 210 and 301 (which also continues on to and from Virginia). The Potomac and Patuxent Rivers also provide transportation exposures for hazardous materials. Major chemical exposures in the county include liquefied petroleum gas, sulfuric acid, chlorine, hydrocarbon fuels, cryogenic liquid oxygen and nitrogen.

WMD Capabilities

Charles County's Tactical Response Team is a FEMA Type 1 CBRN Team. Much of Charles County's WMD equipment is part of the National Capitol Region resources. They also respond in a three county area to Maryland's St. Mary's, Calvert and Charles counties. Past incidents have included a propane truck, oil spill in the Patuxent River, man with a pipe bomb, clandestine drug lab and white powder incidents.

Thanks to La Plata Volunteer Fire Department Truck 1 and crew for their support in taking elevated photograph in Slide #1.

Contact Information:

For additional information or questions, contact: Charles County Tactical Response Team
Chief William Stephens
P.O. Box 2150
La Plata, Maryland 20646
301-609-3429
stephenw@charlescounty.org

Indian Head Volunteer Fire Department
Jeff Williams Fire Chief
Cell - 240-216-4126
Station - 301-753-9400
Jwilleng9@AOL.com

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