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DC Fire-EMS Expands Hazardous Materials Capability

Friday, October 19, 2001

Revamps existing equipment and personnel to increase coverage

The DC Fire/EMS Department today doubled its hazardous materials emergency response capabilities by placing into service a rapid response hazardous materials unit to supplement the existing hazardous materials unit.

DC Fire Chief Ronnie Few said the move was designed to handle the increase in hazardous materials threats the department has seen in the past week. The department has seen a 145 percent increase in the numbers of hazardous material calls in the past six days. "We saw a need to respond to the rise in suspected hazardous materials threats," said Chief Few. "This will help reduce the number of responses for a single hazmat unit."

Assistant Fire Chief of Operations Adrian Thompson said both hazardous materials units are comprised of Level 3-certified hazardous materials technicians. All hazardous materials response teams consist of a battalion fire chief, an engine company, a truck company, and a hazardous materials response unit. "We just converted a newly reserved ambulance unit into a unit with hazardous materials response capability when we tracked the escalation of these types of threats to the community," Thompson said.

Chief Thompson said Level-3 hazardous material technicians have the ability to control and mitigate hazardous materials incidents. Level1 fire personnel have a hazardous materials awareness level, while Level 2 personnel have the ability to identify a hazard at a distance and take corrective measures at a distance, if needed. But Level 2 personnel cannot work in a "hot zone," an area where the hazard has been determined to be at a high level.