Hazmat Response in Honolulu

Honolulu is a beautiful city on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, and the Honolulu Fire Department provides fire protection for the entire island, except for the military installations and Honolulu International Airport. I was surprised to learn it is the only...


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All HFD engine and truck company personnel are trained to provide decontamination. All Honolulu firefighters are trained to a minimum of awareness level. Captains assigned to the hazmat units provide hazmat training for all other department members. Hazmat technicians initially attend a two-week Chemistry of Hazardous Materials class and two weeks of hands on training involving PPE, decontamination, monitors, strategy and tactics, and other equipment. Team members also attend National Fire Academy terrorism response training and are sent to the academy in Emmitsburg, MD, for other hazardous materials classes.

Monitoring instruments used by the HFD include:

  • BW multi-gas monitors (4-gas 3 and 3-gas 3)
  • Draeger Tubes (18 gases or vapors)
  • APD 2000
  • Hazcat
  • Guardian-Biocapture (Guardian Reader)
  • Ludlums Micro Rem
  • Ammonia & Chlorine detectors
  • Pocket Dosimeters
  • M-8 paper
  • IR analyzer
  • Hazmat CAM

PPE used by the HFD Hazardous Materials Team includes Kapler Responder WMD Type for Level A. Level B suits used are PSC-Beta, Kapler Blue, Tyvec Saranex Yellow and Tyvec White. Breathing apparatus is manufactured by MSA and one-hour bottles are used for hazmat and 45-minute bottles for quick entry on apparatus for firefighting. Communication in suits is accomplished with bone mikes.

Because Oahu is an island, there are no interstate highways or railroads. Everything, including hazardous materials shipments, brought onto the island arrives by air or water. Trucks transport hazardous materials to locations of storage and use on the island. Honolulu has a large port facility with intermodal containers of hazardous materials (see “Intermodal Containers: What’s Inside Those Big Boxes?” in the December 2004 issue of Firehouse®). Hazardous materials exposures include two refineries (with their own fire departments), sulfuric acid, propane, anhydrous ammonia used in cold storage facilities, pipelines, petroleum storage and pesticides. Hawaii has the largest synthetic natural gas plant in the United States and a 12 million-gallon petroleum storage facility, built into a mountain during World War II.

For additional information or questions about the HFD Hazardous Materials Team, please contact Captain Carter Davis at 808-734-6770, e-mail hfdHIr@honolulu.hi.us or fax 808-841-7818.


Robert Burke, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is the fire marshal for the University of Maryland. 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 a veteran of 26 years in fire and emergency services, with experience in career and volunteer departments. He has attained the rank of lieutenant, assistant chief and deputy state fire marshal. 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 reached in the Internet at robert.burke@att.net.