Introduction - Aiken County HAZMAT / WMD Team

For a pdf Flyer about Joining the Team. Click here.


It will be the mission of the Aiken County Hazardous Materials / WMD Team to protect the citizens and property of Aiken County and the surrounding counties. We will provide this service to our citizens on a 24 hour, 7 days a week basis. The team will be comprised of Emergency Services Personnel from Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement and Chemical Specialist from within the county and surrounding counties.

To protect the citizens and property of Aiken County and the surrounding counties. The Aiken County Hazardous Materials / WMD Team will use the best possible equipment and technology available to the hazardous material world. We will deploy equipment and personnel to protect the citizens from Chemical Spills, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorist or Criminal events involving Chemicals and Weapons of Mass Destruction Agents.

Though the Team responds to many types of hazards, the most common is the chemical hazard. Only in recent years has proper emphasis been placed on the serious nature of chemicals and their insidious nature. In the past, emergency responders, especially firefighters, were unknowingly subjected to poisonous materials and were inadequately trained to understand the dangers involved in chemical accidents. Today, fire departments are keenly aware of the dangerous situation posed by chemicals and typically are the ones that decide when the HAZMAT specialists are needed - - - when required, the Team is called in.

When responding to Haz-Mat incidents one must consider how chemicals can affect the body. To have an affect the chemical(s) must be either ingested, injected, come in contact with skin, or most typically - be inhaled. It is also an important fact that ALL chemicals are toxic depending on the amount of exposure or dose. Therefore, even the most benign chemicals in moderate exposure can also be deadly in large enough doses. Generally, most attention is given to the extremely toxic chemicals like hydrogen fluoride, nitric acid, acrolein, and mercury for example. However, chlorine gas (stored in large quantities at water treatment and swimming pool facilities), propane, sulfuric acid, and many other chemicals can be deadly and call for unique measures when involved in emergency situations. The toxicity of chlorine gas was unfortunately demonstrated in our response area several years ago during a train derailment. Loss of life, long term injuries and large economic impacts will scar us for years to come.

It is common to not feel threatened from hazardous substances during our daily activities, but consider the size of the county (1,081 sq. miles) and the number industries, chemical transport vehicles, and major transportation corridors it contains. If these considerations do not change your perspective then examine the D.O.T. placards on the trucks and rail cars the next time your out.

Increased awareness of chemical hazards over the past few years has done more than focus the attention of emergency responders to their toxic nature. Importantly, congress has passed strict laws that ensure health and safety and protect the environment. The HAZMAT Team operates within the strict guidelines of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) regulations 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.120. This regulation specifies the requirements and detail for the HAZMAT Team which includes:
    - Emergency Response Plan
    - Chain of Command (Incident Command System)
    - Training
    - Medical Surveillance
    - Personal Protective Equipment
    - Postemergency Response

Containment and cleanup of chemicals and any contaminated equipment and environmental media such as soil or water are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC). Severe fines, penalties, and criminal enforcement action can be taken against those individuals that violate environmental regulations. The HAZMAT Team must ensure that the laws and regulations of both OSHA and the EPA/SCDHEC are adhered to. Therefore, besides the technical aspects of hazardous materials response, the Team is educated on the regulatory aspects also.

It should be noted that unlike other emergency response units and organizations, the name of the unit sums it up - - - TEAM. Not intending to downplay the role of our "high-tech" equipment, the emphasis in this case is on the group of individuals on the Team. Using the skills of various individuals, the Team sizes up, analyses, and makes its unified approach to the emergency. Unlike fire and rescue units, the HAZMAT Team must fully understand the technical details of the hazard it faces to adequately protect the responders. Depending upon the type and nature of the chemical or other hazards (radiological or biological) will determine the specific combination of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that the responder must wear. Miscalculation by the Science Officer in PPE selection or inadequate use of the PPE can be a fatal mistake. Using monitoring instrumentation, shipping manifests, chemical reference books, computer modeling, and other resources the Team fully prepares for its approach. The hazards the Team deals with are often complex and deadly - - - efficient but methodical tactics are mandatory. To ensure the response is safe and successful, each member is assigned a different but critical task such as entry, decontamination, monitoring, and standby/rescue team.

For adequate and uniform site control, a system of zones is immediately established. As shown in a classic example below, there are 3 control zones: the Cold (Support) Zone, Warm (Contamination Reduction) Zone, and Hot (Exclusion) Zone. The Cold Zone is a clean or non-contaminated zone where support and control functions are staged. The Warm Zone acts as a buffer area between the Cold and Hot Zones and contains the Decon Line (Contamination Reduction Corridor), shown in black on the graphic, which is the pathway to and from the Hot Zone.

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