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Somerset is situated in south-central Kentucky on the northeastern edge of Lake Cumberland, 76 miles south of Lexington, 128 miles southeast of Louisville and 129 miles northwest of Knoxville, TN, and is the county seat of Pulaski County. Somerset measures eight square miles and has a population of 11,196. Pulaski County is the second-largest county in Kentucky and covers a land area of 653 square miles and has a population of 54,570.
The Somerset/Pulaski County Special Response Team (SRT) was formed in 2000. Pulaski County had a small hazmat team prior to 2000, but it was disbanded in 1998 due to lack of funding. Original members of the team went to county government to seek funding for the new SRT. Jeff Marcum was the first chief and was replaced by Doug Baker in 2001, who has remained the chief since that time. In addition to Baker, the command staff is comprised of an assistant chief who serves as entry sector commander, a major who serves as operations sector commander, two captains who handle logistics and medical and six lieutenants. All officers are cross-trained in all areas of command and operations.
Somerset’s SRT is a standalone weapons of mass destruction (WMD)/hazardous materials team that has no other duties. All personnel, including officers, are volunteers and receive no monetary compensation for their services. It is the only such standalone team in Kentucky. In addition to being standalone, the SRT is relatively autonomous in terms of outside oversight, although it receives input from the Pulaski County Department of Public Safety.
Initially, the team was funded by Pulaski County as a member of the Pulaski County Fire Commission. In 2002, Kentucky Emergency Management initiated a regional response system with 16 regional teams (only three of these original teams remain in service; the others are the Blue Grass Emergency Response Team and a northern Kentucky team based in Alexandria, both based out of fire departments in those areas). The original state-sponsored teams were funded by the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for equipment.
Somerset/Pulaski SRT was chosen to be the host team for the 10 County Rapid Response Team and designated as Hazmat 12. Hazmat 12 is governed by a board of directors with one representative from each of the 10 counties. The representatives then elect a board chairman, currently Tiger Robinson from the Pulaski County Department of Public Safety. They cover an area of 3,800 square miles with a population of 211,000. Team members are made up of firefighters, law enforcement, former military personnel, paramedics and two members of the Kentucky National Guard’s 41st Civil Support Team based in Louisville. They have been in service for 13 years without an injury to any personnel.
The SRT is housed in its own 10,000-square-foot facility in Somerset. Apparatus-related space takes up about 7,000 square feet of the building and there is 3,000 square feet of training space. The SRT has 52 members in Pulaski County, with 45 trained to a minimum of the technician level. The minimum level of training for support personnel is the Operations Level. Personnel have taken additional specialty courses in radiation and response to chemical, ordnance/explosive, biological, and radiological/nuclear (COBRA) incidents at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Aniston, AL.
Hazmat 12 has a total of 160 personnel based in the 10-county response area. All team members are put through an extensive background check, including fingerprinting. In the event mutual aid is required, approximately 12 technicians are available from the Somerset Fire Department, which has 24 paid personnel. Outside Somerset, mutual aid is available from Adair and Boyle counties. Mutual aid personnel are assigned to decontamination.
Apparatus housed at the WMD/hazmat station include: