The Edmond Sun

March 28, 2013

Edmond first responders refresh hazmat skills

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Edmond fire personnel refreshed their hazmat skills Thursday during a class taught by an official with the State Department of Health.

The classroom-style training session was scheduled before recent incidents involving suspicious substances and items were received by multiple agencies in Oklahoma City in the past two weeks, causing shutdowns of public buildings.

Edmond’s Hazardous Material Response Team provides critical emergency response to hazardous material incidents in Edmond and across central Oklahoma. The team consists of hazmat technicians trained to respond to incidents involving highway and rail transportation, industrial accidents, meth lab response, chemical, radiological, nuclear and explosive incidents and incidents involving biological materials.

Members are part of two response units — the Oklahoma Department of Homeland Security Region 8 response unit and a mass decon/mass casualty unit.

Fire Capt. Doug Benne said Thursday’s session was refresher training for the Edmond Fire Department’s protocols on any biological agents personnel might encounter. They also reviewed different sampling techniques, how personnel deal with any evidence from the time it is discovered, collected and handed to the next agency for testing, Benne said.

Benne said the training is helpful due to the natural turnover that occurs in a fire department. The Fire Department team manages all response in Edmond and within the region if requested.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provided a large part of the funding for the equipment used by the city’s hazmat team, Benne said.

“Part of our responsibility is to keep up to date with training,” he said. “We constantly strive for perfection on everything whether it’s dealing with hazardous materials, technical rescue, fire behavior or medical training. This is just one aspect of the job.”

John Murray, a co-director of the State Health Department’s Public Health Laboratory, was at the Edmond Fire Department’s administration offices to oversee the training.

Murray said the agency works with hazmat teams in the state, providing materials and training on the best ways to safely collect suspicious substances. That includes ensuring safety for the first responder, lab workers who receive the substances and to protect the integrity of the specimen, he said.

Training with specially equipped units across the state also includes chain of custody and ensuring proper documentation and standardized protocols are followed, Murray said.

“There is a rapid response effort whenever there are these types of calls whether there’s legitimacy to them or not,” he said.

Standards help limit exposure and with future prosecution efforts, Murray said. | 341-2121, ext. 108