HazMat Team Spotlight: Nashville, TN Fire Department

May 17, 2005
Slideshow Images: Nashville Fire Department HazMat Hazardous Materials Team Overview
  • Slideshow Images: Nashville Fire Department HazMat

    Hazardous Materials Team Overview

    Nashville formed its first volunteer fire company in 1807 and became full time in 1860. Nashville's Fire Department under the leadership of Chief Stephen D. Halford (a 30 year fire and EMS veteran) serves an area of 533 square miles with a population of 580,450. Nashville has a uniformed staff of over 1200 who operate 39 engine companies (9 ALS and 30 BLS), 12 truck companies, 2 air units, 24 medic units, 2 hazardous materials companies, 4 heavy rescue companies, 1 dive rescue company, 2 foam units, 2 brush units, 1 collapse rescue unit, USAR-TN Task Force 2, and 1 fireboat from 39 stations located in 7 districts. The Cumberland River flows through Nashville and the fire boat handles fire and rescue associated with the river. Nashville Fire Department responds to over 100,000 fire and EMS alarms each year. Of those alarms approximately 69,000 are EMS and 29,000 fire related. Nashville International Airport has its own fire department but the city provides mutual aid as needed.

    Nashville formed their hazardous materials team and started training in 1978 and were operational in April of 1979 as a regional response team. Nashville, Jacksonville Florida, and Houston, Texas all formed their teams around the same time becoming the first ones in the country. While their hazmat team was not formed when the BLEVE occurred in Waverly, Tennessee Nashville did send 5 engine companies to the Waverly incident. This incident was one of the reasons the Nashville team was formed. Their original van was supplied by the state and had a 100 mile regional response area. Nashville placed a second team in service in March 2001 thanks largely to efforts of Chief Halford and Mayor Purcell which paid great dividends following 9/11. The hazardous materials unit responded to 196 Level I and 40 Level II hazardous materials incidents during 2004. Statistics for hazmat responses within do not include local engine runs for hydrocarbon fuel spills and natural gas leaks. Each engine companies carry sand and absorbent material for small hydrocarbon spills less than 110 gallons.


    Nashville has two comparably equipped hazardous materials units built in 2000, one at Station 12 and one at Station 13. Each serves as an independent response team or they can operate as one team. Station 13 is home to Engine 13, Rescue 13, and Hazard 13 and is located at 410 45th Ave North near the major chemical facilities in the city and next to Interstate 40. Station 13 is also temporary home to Ladder 17 while work is completed on their station. Station 12 is located at 101 Polk Avenue near Interstate 40 and Nashville International Airport and is home to Engine 12, Foam 12, Rescue 12 and Hazard 12. Hazard units 12 and 13 and Foam 12 are not dedicated units and are staffed by Engine and Rescue crews for hazmat response. Foam 12 is a 2000 gallon dedicated foam unit. A 2000 gallon reserve foam tanker is also available. Hazmat 12 is an International E-1 and Hazmat 13 is a Pierce E-1.

    Equipment carried on board Hazmat 12 & 13 includes decontamination, entry PPE, respiratory protection, chlorine kits A, B, and C, patching and plugging, air drilling equipment for tanker off loading, portable weather station, sparkles tools, and other miscellaneous tools. Zumro decontamination tents 20x30' are located on each hazmat unit.


    Nashville Hazmat has 67 technicians assigned to Stations 12 and 13. Minimum staffing is 8 per team with full staffing at 11. So there are at least 16 team members on duty at any one time. An additional 160 technicians are located in other companies throughout the city and they must maintain their certification as well. Shifts are 24 hours on and 48 hours off. All other firefighting personnel are trained to the operations level. EMS is a separate bureau within the city. Two ALS units respond to all hazmat incidents with one dedicated to hazmat transport if needed. All hazmat team members are EMT's and they do their own personnel monitoring for pre and post entry.

    Training Requirements

    Hazardous materials technicians in the Nashville Fire Department are trained with a 40 hour in house course. They are required to have 80 hours of annual in service/refresher training. Some team members have also been sent for outside training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama, bomb and explosives training in New Mexico, and radiological training in Nevada. The Tennessee National Guard has a Civil Support Team in Nashville which provides Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) training for the hazmat team. Recently a drill was held at Titan Stadium involving WMD where work was done on the National Incident Command System (IC). Nashville police and fire departments were involved in the production of a Department of Justice WMD training series using the incident command system.

    Monitoring Instruments & Identification Equipment

    Monitoring capabilities include:

    • pH Paper
    • Haz Cat Kit
    • Color Metric Tubes
    • Personal Smart Tabs for Personnel
    • Five Gas MSA
    • RAD
    • Mini Rae
    • Area Rae (monitored through laptop in engine)
    • PID

    Terrorist Agent ID:

    • APD
    • M-8, M-9 papers and the M-256 Military detection kits.

    Personnel Protective Equipment
    Level A

    • Kapler Tychem 10000
    • Flash Protection
    • Cool Vests

    Level B

    • Tychem

    White Powder Incidents

    • Level B with Air Purifying Respirator (APR)

    Respiratory Protection

    • APR's for each person on fire department and EMS bureau.
    • 30 Minute MSA for Firefighting
    • 60 Minute MSA for Hazmat Team


    • Throat mike-TEA
    • 800 MHz Radio System

    Research Resources

    • Lists of inventory at some fixed facilities
    • Chemical Knowledge Computer Program
    • NIOSH
    • ERG
    • Hazmat Desk Reference
    • Condensed Chemical Dictionary
    • CAMEO
    • Chris Manual

    State Health Department laboratory is located in Nashville. They have a one hour turnaround for preliminary identification and 24 hour confirmation of biological agents.

    Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines

    Check with Fire Hazmat for specific SOP/SOG's

    Hazardous Materials Exposures

    Interstates 24, 40, and 65 cross through Nashville as well as state highways 31 and 96. It is estimated that 60% of all trucking commerce east of the Rocky Mountains comes through Tennessee. CSX has a rail yard in Nashville and barges travel up and down the Cumberland River. Fort Campbell is 50 miles North of Nashville and Oak Ridge National Laboratories is also near by where they have nuclear fissile material among other hazardous materials. Dupont has a plant that manufactures white phosphorus, there is a Rhome & Hass chemical plant, and a pesticide precursor plant in Nashville. Vanderbilt University (one of the top 25 research centers in the country) and Hospital are located in Nashville with associated research laboratories. There is also a million gallon Liquefied Natural Gas storage facility in the city. Arnold Engineering Company tests rocket fuel for NASA including di methyl hydrazine. Liquid hydrogen is shipped through the city in route to Huntsville, Alabama and Red stone arsenal. During the Clinton-Gore administration Vice President Gore made frequent visits to his Tennessee home and there were also several presidential visits where the hazmat team was called upon to stand by.

    Terrorism Response

    Nashville has a USAR team and a National Guard Civil Support Team available for response to WMD incidents.

    Contact Information

    For additional information or questions, contact:

    [email protected]


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