Safety personnel need hazardous materials training, official says New equipment also is needed

December 01, 1992|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Staff Writer

The chairman of the county's Local Emergency Planning Committee told the county commissioners yesterday that Carroll needs training and equipment for "first responders" to emergency hazardous materials calls.

Chairman Mike Rehfeld cited the recent Lehigh Cement incident in Union Bridge in which six employees were overcome by fumes and the leaking of benzene fumes into the basement of a Manchester home as he asked the commissioners for money to accomplish the committee's planning and training goals.

Mr. Rehfeld, a firefighter who is one of the few in the county trained to handle hazardous materials, said it is imperative for all first responders -- firefighters and medic crews -- to be thoroughly trained to handle hazardous material situations that may occur in the county.

He also said the transportation of industrial products through the county "is our biggest threat. We don't know what is running through the area. In many cases, the only warning is a 'dangerous' sign on a tank truck on the highway, and this does not tell us the exact contents.

"We now depend on the Fort Detrick [U.S. Army] HazMat unit to cover any incident in Carroll County, and that can take up to an hour or longer to respond because of the distance involved."

Mr. Rehfeld said the committee's goals for the next four years include an inventory of all businesses in the county that use or store hazardous materials, purchasing telephone pagers for response personnel and the establishment of portable decontamination units in 1993.

Some of the recommendations for 1994 include $5,000 in training and travel funds for county HazMat personnel; the purchase of two vehicles for on-call at a cost of $30,000; and the purchase of four portable radios for about $4,000.

He said that if the county has two vehicles in good condition that are going to be replaced, those could be used by local HazMat personnel. Each car would be equipped with material to identify hazardous materials and the best method to control them, he said.

A fully equipped HazMat response vehicle, which the committee recommends for purchase in 1995, would cost about $60,000. Additional equipment for the HazMat team members would cost another $30,000, he said.

Mr. Rehfeld said updating the training of HazMat team members, new equipment and travel funds in 1996 could cost up to $20,000.

He also told the commissioners that approximately 60 responders are required for each incident that occurs.

First responders were classified as the county's most important asset by all members of the Emergency Planning Committee, Mr. Rehfeld said. But he emphasized that they must be properly trained.

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