JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va –
Members of the Virginia Association of Hazardous Materials Response Specialists, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, toured Joint Base Langley-Eustis as part of their annual Virginia HAZMAT Conference, Sept. 22, 2021.
The tour allowed conference attendees to see an actual U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor in its hangar and visit the 633d Civil Engineer Squadron fire station, all while asking questions of JBLE personnel who are familiar with both. For many in the group, this was their first introduction to the JBLE mission.
“[The tour group received a] better education of the F-22’s advanced composites and safety protocols to observe when responding to a mishap,” said James “Fergy” Ferguson, an emergency management specialist with the JBLE Office of Emergency Management. “Should there ever be an off-base mishap, a civilian locality will be the first to the scene, with JBLE response forces as a follow on element. The ability of conference attendees to ask technical firefighting questions of the Langley firefighting staff [was] tied to the goal of the tour.”
As civilian localities are the first on-scene responders in such an emergent situation, if JBLE personnel also respond, this kind of tour may help promote the standardization of techniques, training, and camaraderie for those responders engaged in hazardous materials response.
“Emergency managers, fire service and law enforcement agencies often communicate and share ideas among the different cities, counties and military installations throughout Hampton Roads,” said Todd Cannon, Virginia Department of Emergency Management region 5 HAZMAT officer. “An understanding of the aircraft, a better knowledge of the capability of [JBLE] responders and what they can provide to an off-site incident. [This was an] opportunity for an exchange of ideas and best practices.”
Additionally, just knowing who is who when local, state, and federal responders gather on scene can be critical for a safe response, according to Wade Collins, VAHMRS president.
“It is critical for responders to have as much information on any potential hazardous incident prior to the event,” Collins said. “Our responders have responded to downed aircraft in a densely populated area in previous years. To have awareness of the hazards, as well as a working relationship with the military personnel who may respond is extremely beneficial to all. Many stakeholders are involved when incidents occur, preplanning and developing relationships is the key to a safe response.”
“We use hazardous materials while accomplishing our everyday missions on JBLE,” Fergy said. “Should there be a hazardous materials accident, all JBLE personnel involved in use of HAZMAT must know how to respond and who to notify. This is why there is so much training in the proper way to store, use and properly dispose of these materials, to maximize life safety and minimize disruption to our JBLE mission.”