Fire Department, military conduct Hazmat drills

By Jason Johnston
Emporia Gazette – May 7, 2014

An Emporia firefighter is cleaned off in the decontamination area before removing his suit outside the Anderson building.

An Emporia firefighter is cleaned off in the decontamination area before removing his suit outside the Anderson building.

Emporia firefighters put on hazmat suits as they prepare to begin training at the Anderson Building on Tuesday morning in a joint training session with the Kansas National Guard 73rd Civil Support Team. Photos by Dustin Michelson.

Emporia firefighters put on hazmat suits as they prepare to begin training at the Anderson Building on Tuesday morning in a joint training session with the Kansas National Guard 73rd Civil Support Team. Photos by Dustin Michelson.

 

Two members of the Kansas National Guard’s 73rd Civil Support Team walk out of the Anderson Building after completing a “hot zone” training at stations inside the building.

Two members of the Kansas National Guard’s 73rd Civil Support Team walk out of the Anderson Building after completing a “hot zone” training at stations inside the building.

 

Dustin Michelson/Gazette An Emporia Fire Department firefighter tests a liquid inside of the Anderson Building on Tuesday morning during a joint HAZMAT training with the Kansas National Guard 73rd Civil Service Team.

Dustin Michelson/Gazette
An Emporia Fire Department firefighter tests a liquid inside of the Anderson Building on Tuesday morning during a joint HAZMAT training with the Kansas National Guard 73rd Civil Service Team.

An Emporia firefighter walks across the interior of the Anderson Building holding HAZMAT testing instruments during a joint training session with the Kansas National Guard 73rd Civil Service Team on Tuesday morning.

An Emporia firefighter walks across the interior of the Anderson Building holding HAZMAT testing instruments during a joint training session with the Kansas National Guard 73rd Civil Service Team on Tuesday morning.

Two Emporia firefighters speak to each other through the masks of their hazmat suits as they work to test substances at a training station.

Two Emporia firefighters speak to each other through the masks of their hazmat suits as they work to test substances at a training station.

The Emporia Fire Department and the Kansas National Guard 73rd Civil Support Team simulated a hazardous materials scenario Tuesday in the Anderson Building on the Lyon County Fairgrounds.

“The main thing that we’re looking to take away from this is, well of course more practice for us, but just working together with the other entities because we don’t get this opportunity very much, and we get to see all the different technologies and stuff that they’re (Civil Support Team) using, different techniques that maybe we haven’t been exposed to before,” said Capt. Bill Harmon of the Emporia Fire Department.

“And then, that just allows us to maybe change some way we do things, and they may see something that we do that may be more of a benefit to them. So, it is kind of a learning experience on both sides.”

The hazmat training started Monday with site survey and sampling. It ends today with training in the Lowther North building at the 200 block of West Sixth Avenue.

On Tuesday, the simulation involved the Fire Department and the Civil Support Team both taking samples in the Anderson Building of a possible salmonella outbreak. Each team that went into the building were wearing Level A suits, which provided protection against chemicals, splashes and vapor.

“They’re wearing the same breathing apparatus that we do when we go into a structure fire,” Harmon said. “So, it just gives them, depending on how in shape they are and how much work they are doing, it could give them up to 45 minutes to an hour worth of air. If they are doing a lot of work, probably down to like 30 minutes.”

The teams also simulated a man down scenario to see how they would work together, he said.

The Civil Support Team is stationed at Forbes Field in the Topeka area.

“We support local authorities, and we respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear threats — the acronym for that is CBRN,” said Maj. Rob Cole of the Civil Support Team. “We are also to support local authorities in the event of manmade or national disasters.”

The Civil Support Team is required to conduct 60 days of training with local agencies each year throughout the state, Cole said.

“Over the last year, we’ve supported law enforcement to field screen suspicious packages,” he said. “We’ve also conducted pre-event sweeps at Sporting Park in Kansas City prior to the all-star game and the MLS championship to ensure the security of the event. …

“This gives us the opportunity to train with local responders to get to know them, to share best practices, so that way in the event of a real event, we have a seamless operation.”

The Office of the State Fire Marshal also observed the training sessions.

“If there is anything that is outdated or needs updated, they supply us with the majority of our stuff. … and kind of restock us with supplies,” Harmon said.

This training isn’t something that the Fire Department, which is also a regional response team, does all the time, he said.

“It’s different when you have other entities because then you can kind of play more real,” Harmon said. “When it’s just us, it’s a little bit more difficult to play real. It’s just a refresher on getting all of our equipment out and setting everything up.”

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster



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