News | July 26, 2017

Firefighters tackle hazardous materials with new equipment

By Airman 1st Class Kaylee Dubois 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Blending in among the typical fire trucks and equipment in the Fort Eustis Fire Department, sits a bright red truck filled with hazardous material detection equipment.

As a fire department, dealing with a HAZMAT crisis is not a daily occurrence. However, if it did happen, it would warrant a response from emergency management and bioenvironmental personnel.

Due to personnel shortages at Fort Eustis, firefighters take on the emergency management and bioenvironmental roles, and reach out to those services for recommendation when a call comes in.

To ensure proper emergency management, the Fort Eustis team participates in joint training exercises with Langley Air Force Base personnel and recently completed a nine-hour course to learn the basic operations of a new piece of equipment, called HazMatID Elite, to identify chemicals.

“HazMatID is used as a first response in identifying unknown materials in one minute or less,” said Michael Holland, Fort Eustis Fire and Emergency Services assistant chief of HAZMAT, health and safety. “Another capability of the device is long-range wireless transmission, which can allow the teams to be downrange and share information immediately with the command to determine how to handle the situation.”

With an extensive library of substances, the HazMatID identifies the percentages of unknown materials and provides the firefighters with the information that they need to appropriately respond to emergencies.

“This identifying tool saves us time, but more importantly, it saves lives,” said Lt. Peter Taylor, Fort Eustis Fire and Emergency Services lead firefighter. “The device will identify anything in its wide-range library and computer-based software for advance data-library capabilities. It can identify anything from coffee creamer to protein-based materials such as anti-freeze.”

As a multi-faceted device, the HazMatID is compatible with other pieces of equipment for a wider identification range and is one of eight pieces of equipment, such as the BioThreat Alert Reader and Photoionization Detector that the firefighters are trained to use in hazardous situations.

As first responders, the Fort Eustis Fire Department continues to train to increase their capabilities as emergency management and bioenvironmental specialists, and most importantly firefighters to ensure the safety and security of the community.

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