Hazmat Response In The Bluegrass Region

Regional hazardous materials response teams were located throughout Kentucky in the late 1980s. By the end of the 1990s, however, many teams had disbanded for various reasons, leaving gaps in hazmat response. Following an infusion of money from the...


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BERT members respond to an average of 27 hazmat incidents each year, not including fuel spills, gas-odor complaints or carbon monoxide (CO) alarms that are handled by local jurisdictions. Fire department engine companies carry absorbent materials for small fuel spills. Procedures for calling in BERT for fuel spills vary from county to county.

 

BERT qualifications

The BERT governing board determines team membership and votes in members. Applications are assessed for training level and certificates, availability for response, residence (members must live in the BERT response area), employers’ statements of availability and applicants’ statement that they have read and understand all BERT procedures. Once approved, each applicant must undergo a medical examination to determine fitness for duty based on the physical requirements of BERT operations. Team members may be trained to any of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hazmat levels, including awareness, operations, technician, specialist or incident commander. Hazmat duties on the team depend on members’ levels of training:

• Awareness-level personnel receive sufficient training or proven experience in specific competencies

• Operations-level personnel need aware-ness-level training plus 16 hours or proven experience

• Technicians receive awareness and operations training plus 16 hours of initial training and proven competency in specific areas

• Hazardous Materials Group Supervisors must be qualified at the technician level plus have 16 hours of incident command training and proven competency

All BERT personnel receive annual refresher training to maintain competency. Entry team leaders are required to be at the technician level with additional competencies identified in team standard operating guidelines (SOGs). A person designated as an Assistant Safety Officer/Hazardous Materials is required to be at the technician level and have competency in areas listed in team SOGs. Training for team members is conducted by OAI Inc. and paid for through grants.

On arrival at an incident scene, the Hazmat Group Supervisor is responsible for organizing BERT according to team SOGs and becomes a part of the overall incident management system already put in place by the local jurisdiction. Depending on the scope of the incident and the needs of the Hazmat Group Supervisor, they may appoint an Entry Leader; Decon Leader; Site Access Control Leader, Assistant Safety Officer/Hazardous Materials; Technical Specialist/Hazardous Materials Reference; and Safe Refuge Area Manager. Any functions that are not designated by the Hazmat Group Supervisor will be handled by the Hazmat Group Supervisor.

Hazmat equipment carried by BERT is typical of hazmat response teams. For physical protection, members use Lakeland Tychem TK Level A and B chemical protective suits, Cool Vests body-cooling vests and Scott 4.5 60-minute airpacks with longline connections.

 

Equipping the team

Lexington’s Hazmat 1 is a 2009 Pierce with a command cab, 25-kilowatt Onan generator, WTI Sidewinder telescoping zoom video camera and Will-Burt Night Scan light tower. The unit is equipped with climate-controlled chemical protective equipment and air monitor storage compartments. Three video monitors are in the command cab – one for video output, one for real-time local weather radar and one for an EntryLink video camera. An external computer and video monitor provide video to team members outside the command cab for briefings and other needs. DVR capability is available in the command cab to record and play back video camera footage. Two desktop computers and wireless Internet connections are available for research.

Two hazmat trailers are pulled by pickup trucks in Clark and Woodford counties and are capable of handling hazmat response on their own if required. Winchester Fire-EMS (Clark County) houses Unit 1 and the Versailles Fire Department houses Unit 2. Command centers are located at the front of the trailers and team equipment in the rear. Equipment carried on the trailers includes Level A and B chemical protective suits and related equipment; self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and spare 60-minute bottles; AV3000 air-purifying respirators (APRs); N100 cartridge masks; decontamination equipment and supplies; patching and plugging equipment; and a multitude of other tools and support equipment for use during hazmat responses. Monitoring equipment includes Cannonball 3, MultiRAE and Passport monitors; Smiths Detection LCD-3 chemical detector and HazMatID system; and Inspector radiation monitor.