The City of Philadelphia with a heavy chemical industry presence on its South and East sides, has always taken a proactive approach to hazardous materials response.
This is the first installment of a new section being launched in the hazardous materials section of Firehouse.com. Hazmat Team Spotlight will focus on hazardous materials teams across the country to provide information that can be shared by other departments and personnel. Fire departments throughout the country have always responded to emergencies involving chemicals. In fact the fire department is the nation's first responder to all types of emergencies including fires, emergency medical, natural disasters and acts of terrorism. Resulting from the response to chemical incidents, the term hazardous materials (hazmat) became the buzz word of the 1970's and 80's. With the passage of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986 (also known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) and continued reauthorization over the years, hazmat took a giant leap forward in the emergency response community.Philadelphia Pennsylvania Fire Department Hazardous Materials TeamHazardous Materials Team OverviewUnder the leadership of Commissioner Hairston, the Philadelphia Fire Department has 2400 uniformed personnel who operate 65 engine companies, 28 truck companies, 1 heavy rescue, 37 medic units, 2 fireboats, the hazardous materials unit and 6 foam units. The City of Philadelphia with a heavy chemical industry presence on its South and East sides, has always taken a proactive approach to hazardous materials response. Philadelphia's fire department hazardous materials unit responds to an average of 70 hazardous materials incidents each year. Statistics for hazmat responses within Philadelphia do not include local engine runs for hydrocarbon fuel spills. Each engine carries approximately 25 pounds of oil dry material for cleaning up fuel spills. If the spill is larger than they can handle, one of the 7 "Depot" companies responds with larger amounts of oil dry rather than sending the Haz-Mat Unit for a fuel spill. The "Depot" stations are strategically located throughout the city.Fire Commissioner Harold B. Hairston has shown the fire departments commitment to this effort by the construction of a new station in 1997 to house Haz-Mat 1, the department's new hazardous materials response unit. The Hazmat Station is located in Battalion 1 at 2301 S. 24Th Street, the area of highest hazmat exposure in the city and if bounded by Market Street in Center City on the North, the Navy Yard on the South, Front Street on the East, and 25th street on the West. Haz-Mat 1 responds to incidents through out Philadelphia. While some emergency response organizations have scaled back and eliminated some levels of hazardous materials response, Philadelphia continues to be innovative and proactive in their approach to hazmat. The new specially designed four bay fire station houses the hazmat unit along with other apparatus. Haz-Mat 1's quarters are laid out all on one floor except for a second level storage area for hazmat supplies. The engine bay has locker space for bunker gear, a storage room and decontamination station. Living quarters include separate bath and locker rooms for men and women, bunk room, offices for each company, a conference room, kitchen, and watch desk.Haz-Mat 1 was built in 1996 by Salisbury Fire Equipment Company of Pennsylvania. In addition to the hazardous materials unit, the new station houses Engine 60, Ladder 19, Medic 37 and Haz-Mat Support Unit 101. Engine 60 and Ladder 19 have served South Philadelphia for over 76 years. They were organized on June 16, 1921 and were located at 24th and Ritner Streets. On September 24, 1990 Engine 60 and Ladder 19 were relocated to the former house of Engine 47 at 3031 Grays Ferry Avenue while their new station was being constructed. When a hazardous materials response is requested, crews from Engine 60 and Ladder 19 combine forces to place Haz-Mat 1 in service. The ladder is placed out of service and Engine 60, Haz-Mat 1 and Support Unit 101 make up the Hazardous Materials TaskForce.Equipment on Haz-Mat 1 is organized into numbered compartments. The large walk in air conditioned crew cab contains an area for communications, computer operation, and research protected from the harsh weather extremes in Philadelphia. To assist during hazmat operations, the cab work area has a fax machine, hazmat library 9-portable radios, a lap-top computer, with the software program Computer Aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO), 2 mobile telephones, and a instamatic camera and film. The other compartments on the unit contain monitoring instruments, assorted PPE, decontamination equipment, chlorine kits, patching and plugging equipment and supplies, sorbant materials and a wide variety of support equipment. Spare air bottles and a complete air cascade system and generator round out the well equipped hazardous materials response unit.Staffing