The Ross Township Fire Service established a Hazardous Materials Team several years ago. During the last few years, we have made even greater progress by maintaining a HAZ-MAT response team that can handle many different types of calls. One of our greatest achievements is, because of our manpower and equipment, the Ross Township Fire Service Hazardous Materials team is now a State of Indiana certified HAZ-MAT response team. This qualifies us for numerous grants, and in the event of a large scale HAZ-MAT or terrorist incident, we could be called for mutual aid throughout an area much larger that Merrillville.
Our team is all volunteer, from each of the four fire districts. These members are not only trained in firefighting and rescue from their respective departments but have also chosen to advance into the hazardous materials division as well. We currently average around 12-15 members that respond with the HAZ-MAT team, and have the ability to mitigate several different types of incidents.
We currently utilize two fully loaded response vehicles, and we are in the process of adding a third rig, as well as a “Mass Decon” trailer that will be used in the event of a large scale, mass casualty incident. Our rigs, known as Squad 2 and Squad 3, are both loaded with many different types of equipment, including four-gas detection meters, three-gas detection meter, Gas Tracker meters (for sniffing out gas leaks), a radioactive detection kit, as well as military level terrorism equipment. We carry a wide variety of personal protective equipment, from Level A and Level B suits, to gloves and boots. Due to funding from different grants, we will also be receiving even more sophisticated equipment, such as an APD-2000 bio-terrorism meter, as well as newer SCBA’s, personal protective equipment, vehicles, tools and more. We also carry a large amount of spill control equipment, such as absorbent pads, booms, pillows, and oil dry to absorb leaking chemicals and fuels. We have specialized equipment to test unknown products to determine what they are, as well as the ability to confine these products until a certified clean-up company is called to the scene to remove the product to a safe location.
We have responded to several different types of calls over the years. The most common calls are natural gas leaks, carbon monoxide leaks, and fuel spills. We have responded to chemical related calls in the past, semi accidents, farming accidents and other calls involving any kind of hazardous materials, whether solids, liquids, or gases. Because of the state of the country and the fear of terrorist attacks, our hazmat team has had to make a transition from dealing with ‘routine’ calls involving natural gas and fuel spills, to training and equipping ourselves in the event of a terrorist attack in our response area. During the days of the “Anthrax Attacks”, our team responded to and mitigated some 43 “anthrax” incidents involving unknown powders, of which fortunately, all were negative. Our team, has to be versed in responding to different types of terrorist events, as well as the, again, ‘routine’ HAZ-MAT calls.
We do have a training program for maintaining our members abilities, and the extra time we all put into HAZ-MAT duties as well as firefighting, is noted on scenes where we get the job done. Our HAZ-MAT team works closely with other departments in the event of a large-scale incident involving mutual aid, with our main source of mutual aid coming from the Lake County HAZ-MAT team. Any additional manpower or equipment we may need to use to mitigate an incident we can get from other mutual aid companies, especially from the aforementioned Lake County HAZ-MAT team.
It is an ever-changing world we live in, and the fire departments in Ross Township and Merrillville, as well as everywhere, have had to include some sort of hazardous materials response teams to stay current. The Ross Township Fire Service HAZ-MAT Team is fortunate to be a state certified, hard working, very well equipped and well-trained group of firefighters that can handle multiple responses at one time. We are looking at the future and expanding our abilities to become even better prepared and equipped to protect the citizens that we have sworn to protect.