HazMat Team Spotlight: Lake County, Indiana

Nov. 10, 2005
Slideshow Images: Lake County, Indiana HazMat Team Hazardous Materials Team Overview

Hazardous Materials Team Overview

Lake County Indiana is located in Northwest Indiana approximately 20 miles southeast of the City of Chicago. Lake County has 23 independent fire departments in the county with a combination of approximately 700 Career and 700 Volunteer firefighters. Fire departments in the county cover a geographical area of 456 square miles of land and the shore line of Lake Michigan at the northern end of the county. Lake County has a population of approximately 500,000. Fire departments in Lake County operate a total of 75 engine companies, 15 truck companies, 32 medic units, hazardous materials and special operations companies, 10 heavy rescue companies, 10 dive rescue teams, 23 brush units, 15 water tankers, 5 light units, collapse rescue team, trench rescue team, and high-angle rescue team. Through mutual aid with BP Amoco and U.S. Steel Fire Departments over 40,000 gallons of foam is available for firefighting purposes involving hazardous materials. Both BP and U.S. Steel have hazardous materials and technical rescue capabilities. The hazardous materials team is composed of several response units scattered throughout the county with staffing coming from fire departments in the county.

Lake County formed their hazardous materials team in 1992 with funding from BP Amoco Oil Company. Currently the team is funded by county government and administered by the Lake County Fire Chief's Association, Jack Eskridge Chairman. Todd Wilkening is the Hazardous Materials Coordinator for the county and Nick Dvorscak and Ron Svetic are his assistants. The hazardous materials team responds to an average of 300 hazardous materials calls a year. Statistics for hazmat responses do not include local engine runs for hydrocarbon fuel spills and natural gas leaks. Each engine company carries Bio/Chem for small hydrocarbon spills less than 200 gallons. When a spill is greater than 200 gallons the hazmat team responds.


The core of Lake County's hazardous materials response centers around three Chevy Suburban Quick Response Vehicles. The vast majority of calls are for consultation at incidents that occur in the county. Lake County's hazardous materials team has a number of equipment response vehicles and trailers located throughout the county. Trailers with hazardous materials response equipment are located in Crown Point, Dyer, and Whiting. A mass decontamination trailer is located in Schererville. "Mini"-decontamination trailers for use at county hospitals are located in Dyer, Crown Point, Gary, East Chicago, Hammond, Munster, Hobart, and Merrillville. Local fire departments respond to the hospitals with the trailers when mass decontamination is required at the hospital. Many of the county's hospitals also have decontamination rooms associated with the emergency room as well. Hazardous materials teams associated with city fire departments in East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, and Ross Township with hazmat response vehicles, personnel, and equipment are also located within Lake County. Each of the teams from Gary, East Chicago, Hammond, and Ross Township as well as the other trailer units in Crown Point and Schererville can function as independent hazmat teams with the equipment they carry. However, when making a county response all of the team components function as a single county response team.

Quick response Suburbans carry monitoring equipment, laptop computer, reference resources, thermal imaging camera, might vision equipment, bunker gear, and limited hazmat PPE. The bulk of hazardous materials responses in the county involve the quick response vehicles. Other hazmat trailers and vehicles in the county carry typical hazardous materials response equipment. Equipment carried on board includes decontamination, entry PPE, respiratory protection and other standard hazardous materials response equipment.


Hazmat team staffing consists of the coordinator, two assistant coordinators, and career and volunteer firefighters from county fire departments. When a call comes in members leave their fire department positions or their jobs and respond with the assigned equipment located throughout the county. There are 30 hazardous materials technicians, 2 paramedics, and 5 specialists on the team. The specialty areas include 3 corrosive, one hydrocarbon specialist, and one biological substance specialist. Two chemists are also members of the team, one from industry in East Chicago and the other from Purdue University. Lake County's Sheriff's Office SWAT team is also part of the hazmat team with all members trained to the technician level.

Training Requirements

Hazmat team members must have at least five years experience in the fire service. They are trained with an 80 hour in house technician training program, first aid, incident command and FF II. Some team members have also attended the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama, and New Mexico and Nevada training sites. Team members have State of Indiana Hazmat Certification. All county firefighters are trained to the Awareness and Operations levels.

Monitoring Instruments & Identification Equipment

Monitoring capabilities include:
  • AP2C
  • Area Rae
  • GPS Down Link
  • 4-Gas Meters
  • Draeger Tubes
  • Saw Gas Meters
  • pH

Terrorist Agent ID:

  • APD 2000
  • M 256
  • M-8
  • M-9
  • Industrial labs are available for product analysis.

Personnel Protective Equipment

Level A
  • Dupont Tychem

Level B

  • Dupont Tychem

Respiratory Protection

  • MSA SCBA 1 Hour
  • PAPR's MSA and 3M
  • Military masks


  • Motorola APX Bone Mikes

Research Resources

  • Online Up links
  • Bureau of Explosives Railroad Guide
  • ERG 2004
  • Coast Guard CHRIS Manual
  • Firefighter Hazmat Book
  • Condensed Chemical Dictionary
  • Merck Index

Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines

  • Check with Lake County Hazmat for specific SOP/SOG's

Hazardous Materials Exposures

Transportation routes include Interstates 65, 80, 90, and 94. State highways 912 and U.S. highways30 and 41 are also located in the county. During a Transportation Commodity Flow Study conducted in the county over an 8 hour period, 1400 placarded trucks were identified. Railroads in the county include CSX, EJ &E and South Shore. Major rail yards are located in Hammond and East Chicago. The Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal is also in the county and barges carry hazardous materials. Fixed facilities in the county include BP Amoco refinery, which is the 3rd largest in United States. Pipelines from 23 different pipeline companies. Two hydrogen processing plants are located in the county. Other facilities include Petroleum storage facilities and natural gas facilities. Two acid chemical plants manufacturing oleum (fuming sulfuric acid), nitric acid, and hydrochloric acid are located in the county. Two steel companies a located in the county have hazardous materials on site, U.S. Steel and Mittel Steel. Lake County's Hazardous Materials Team has a mutual aid agreement with EPA Region 5 in Chicago to assist at incidents with in the region.

Terrorism Response

Hazmat teams from Lake County cover five Northern Indiana Counties for Region Render Safe activities. They are also subject to call anywhere needed within the State of Indiana. One surrounding county is part of the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) through FEMA. They store Mustard Agent on site waiting destruction. The Lake County Hazmat Team has a mutual aid agreement with this county.

Contact Information

For additional information or questions, contact:Todd Wilkening 219-924-7660[email protected] Website: www.lakefirechiefs.com


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