By Amy Newcomb (Fort Leonard Wood)July 18, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department has a wide range of responsibilities. They put out wild land fires as well as rescue people from crushed cars with the Jaws of Life.
But, did you know they also provide Emergency Response Services for incidents involving hazardous materials; weapons of mass destruction; and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high explosives under Army Regulation 420-90?
According to AR 420-90, "firefighters are critical members of the first responder team and shall be staffed, trained and equipped in accordance with the HAZMAT and CBRNE emergency response plan."
Capt. Nick Schick said the Fort Leonard Wood fire department has the training and equipment to do just that. They can locate hazardous materials and determine what they are and what should be done in order to contain them.
The fire department has a piece of equipment that "can take any chemical that is registered in the United States and … it will tell me what it is within 10 minutes," Schick said.
"Every chemical, like a human being, has a fingerprint, so what this (equipment) does is find that fingerprint for us, then goes to a databank of 32,000 chemicals and finds it for us," he added.
He said the most common call they receive regarding HAZMAT is chlorine gas and H2S, or hydrogen sulfide gas, which emits gas from batteries.
In order to provide emergency response for HAZMAT and CBRNE incidents that are declared "unknown," fire department personnel have to suit up in Level A protective gear, which consists of a full body suit, rubber gloves and boots as well as a breathing apparatus with an oxygen tank, which can sustain them for 45 minutes.
"If I'm working real hard and it's hot like it is then I will probably last about 25 minutes, so I can leave (the equipment on site) and put the chemical on," he said. "Then from the chief's vehicle, he has a laptop and can control everything the (equipment) does, so I can leave, go to rehab, whatever I need to do."
For incidents involving chemicals or gasses that are known, firefighters can suit up in Level B or Level C protective gear -- whatever the situation calls for.
Along with the HAZMAT truck and equipment, the fire department also has a trailer that holds their decontamination tent.
"We can get it up in about five minutes and be fully ready for decon," Schick said.
Per AR 420-90, response time for HAZMAT incidents and first response to CBRNE and WMD incidents are one minute for call processing, one minute to get out the door and five minutes to make location.
Schick said the fire department also operates off post within the Waynesville and St. Robert areas due to a mutual aid agreement, which allows them to help these communities with detecting and determining unknown chemicals.
"We have an agreement set up where they call us because we have a lot more capabilities (for detecting HAZMAT) than they do," he said.