What is meant by "hazardous material?" Simply put, hazardous materials are many of the chemicals used in agriculture, industry, manufacturing, and sometimes even in the home. They are necessary to help produce the food we eat, clothing we wear and many of the items in our home. They help to make us one of the technologically advanced nations in the world. But sometimes these hazardous materials get out of their containers, and have the potential to harm people and the environment.
About 250 million tons of chemicals are shipped throughout the United States each year via highway, railroad and waterway. Since 1984, 62,000 accidents involving the shipment of chemicals have been reported--an average of nearly 8000 accidents per year.
Summit County enjoys a diverse cross-section of industry: polymer, metal chemical, agriculture, and manufacturing. Each of these industries utilizes its own special chemicals as raw materials, which are essential to the production process. All facets of industry carry the potential for concern of a hazardous materials incident. Standing ready to meet this concern is your Summit County Hazardous Materials Response Team (SCHMRT).
The county-wide Hazardous Materials Response Team was established because it was determined that it would be too expensive for each city, township, or village to equip and train their own teams. The Summit County Team is a joint effort between the Summit County Government, the local fire departments, and the University of Akron. The County provides the funding necessary for specialized hazardous materials equipment and basic operating costs, each fire department provides the personnel to respond, and the University of Akron provides the specialized training. The team has been in service since 1986.
Summit County has been divided into three zones to more effectively respond to incidents. If the local fire chief determines that the emergency is small, then he or she activates the personnel from that zone. If the chief has a large scale incident then he or she can activate the entire county and have over one hundred hazardous materials technicians and specialists available. If a technical question about a potential incident arises, then the fire chief can request the Technical Assistance Team (TAT) component of SCHMRT.
Once activated, the team responds to the incident and assists the local fire department in remedying the emergency. The primary response vehicle for the team is a custom designed 1995 Pierce Lance heavy rescue truck. The command cab is a research area complete with computer, printer, copier, fax, and cell phones. Specialty software is installed on the PC and includes CAMEO (Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations), ALOHA (Aerial Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres), Marplot, Times Plus, Kappler Suit Smart, CC Info and Sigma Aldrich. Weather information is gathered by a C-5 SAM weather station on the outside of the vehicle and hard-wired directly to the computer and CAMEO software.
Members of the team have also developed a second vehicle from a 45-foot semi tractor trailer. This conversion was made possible through the generous donations of contributors such as Roadway and Goodyear Tire and Rubber. The converted trailer serves as a portable decontamination unit with capabilities for gross decontamination, secondary decontamination, two personal showers with hot and cold water, and medical evaluation facilities. The trailer has propane-fired heat and air conditioning and a pre-piped, four-bottle, 4500 psi, cascade air system that supplies the self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) utilized by the personnel staffing the decon positions. Electric is supplied by a 5000-watt portable generator. Once on the scene, the unit takes approximately 20 minutes to setup and secure a water source before decontamination can begin. The forward part of the trailer is designed to allow entry personnel (individuals who suit up and enter the hazardous zone) to rest, hydrate, and get medically checked prior to assignment.
The actual operations at a hazardous materials incident can be quite complicated and time-consuming, so the SCHMRT must act quickly and precisely to determine the chemicals involved and their hazards. Chemical identification can be accomplished, if a sample is available, by utilizing Haztech's Hazcat chemical identification kit. Through a series of basic chemistry experiments and the use of a specialized flow chart, chemicals can be narrowed down to a hazard group, or even to the specific chemical.
The majority of hazardous materials incidents require that the air be monitored for chemicals, flammability, and oxygen content. To accomplish this, the team uses a collection of specialized instruments including a Photo Ionization detector (PID); Flame Ionization Detector (FID); CMX, TMX, and CL266 meters; and Sensidyne tubes. Potential radiation emergencies are monitored with Civil Defense meters, a Victoreen Ion Chamber Survey Meter, and a Victoreen Thyac V Survey Meter.
The personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by team members include Level "A" fully encapsulating entry suits (Standard Safety PVC and CPE, Kappler Refelctor and Responder), Level "B" suits (CPF IV and CPF II), self contained breathing apparatus (MSA 4500), "hazproof" and HAZMAT boots, and Nomex fire-resistant coveralls.
When the team leaves the "hot zone," they must be decontaminated and medically evaluated before they can return to work. Once the incident is stabilized, a hazardous waste cleanup contractor is called to remove the hazardous residue. The SCHMRT will not clean up the spill or take possession of any contaminated material. This is the responsibility of the spiller or property owner.
For more information, please call the Summit County Emergency Management Agency at (330)643-2558.