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County unveils HAZMAT plans

January 17, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - New hazardous materials equipment could save valuable minutes in confining a toxic spill in Franklin County.

The Franklin County Emergency Management Agency historically has relied on Cumberland County's hazardous materials response team, but it purchased a $10,000 trailer last month that can carry decontamination equipment to the scene of an incident, and the agency is starting a push to train local volunteers to become certified hazardous materials technicians, said Don Eshleman Jr., Franklin County Emergency Management Coordinator.

"In the past, we didn't have a lot of equipment," Eshleman said, but terrorism grants coming from the federal, state and county levels will allow the county to purchase materials.

If a hazardous materials incident occurred, the volunteers could respond to the scene with the trailer and immediately begin assessing the type and level of contamination well before the Cumberland County team arrives.

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Gary Himes, Hazardous Materials coordinator for the county, said that depending on the location, having the equipment will save 30 to 60 minutes.

"With a hazardous materials incident, there is a lot of research before we go in," Eshleman said.

He said it is the opposite of a burning building, where firefighters would rush in with water hoses.

Wind direction, temperature and the chemicals involved all can make a difference in how serious the situation is and what equipment should be used, he said.

The county is beginning with the purchase of basic decontamination equipment and is planning to further outfit the trailer as funding becomes available.

The trailer is being housed at the Greene Township municipal building until the county finds a permanent location to store it.

Franklin County pays Cumberland County's Special Hazards Operations Team $6,000 annually for its services.

The state requires all counties to have certified hazardous materials response capabilities either by contracting with a certified team or maintaining a team of its own. Because of the costs involved in maintaining a team, equipment and vehicles, Franklin County has opted to contract with Cumberland County.

"The chances of something happening are growing every day," with the increased traffic on Interstate 81, Himes said.

Eshleman said at least 30 county residents are interested in proceeding with hazardous materials training and becoming members of the new Multi-Hazard Incident Support Team. Volunteers do not have to be a member of a fire company or an emergency medical technician.

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