Regional Hazardous Materials Units can be sent anywhere in Nebraska
Thursday, March 3, 2022, 1:43 p.m. CST
Beatrice Fire and Rescue Firefighter/EMT Grant Gordon and Dylan Wenz
BEATRICE — Beatrice Fire and Rescue has deployed a hazmat unit since the late 1990s. Now the department is the first to be designated a Type Three Hazmat Response Team in Nebraska, designated by a review board of the Nebraska Emergency Management Association. Beatrice Fire and Rescue has one of ten Hazmat response teams in Nebraska.
“Homeland Security, along with Emergency Management, has started typing in strike teams and gear…that way if you ask for a fire truck…a type one fire engine as opposed to a type five fire engine….structural firefighting is type one….type five would be like your little grass buggy.”
Beatrice Fire and Rescue Chief Brian Daake said the typing system is now also being applied to regional Hazmat teams. “We started with type three, which is we can handle just about any day-to-day hazardous materials response…where, if the state wanted us to go to type one, that would be very maybe as a state we could do it, but a Type 1 team would be like someone in charge of a Katrina type event.”
Daake says department personnel have gone through the training to become the first Type Three Hazmat unit in Nebraska. Hazmat technicians themselves must complete nearly 120 hours of training to be certified. Several members of the department have this certification, which includes testing for written and practical skills.
As a regional unit, the ministry can handle situations far beyond such things as a simple fuel spill.
“Usually these are unknown materials. Obviously, after the 2001 terrorist attack in the United States, we received a lot of powder calls like everyone else. They were challenges because you had to go through the process of trying to figure out what that powder was. The ones we were involved with was a barrel that fell off a truck and was in a field… that kind of stuff.
EMTs Grant Gordon and Dylan Wenz walked us through the various gear used by the team, including Level A Hazmat suits designed to be used only once in a response situation…and flash suits which protect workers against heat or fire.
There are other regional Hazmat units in Nebraska, including Omaha, Bellevue, Columbus, Norfolk, Grand Island, Hastings, Red Willow Western, North Platte, and Scottsbluff.
Daake says it looks like the next department to get the Hazmat Type three designation will be Omaha, with Grand Island and Hastings close behind.