Thursday, July 04, 2002

Devices can detect hazards

Fire units equipped for accidents, attacks

By Steve Kemme,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Three Butler County fire departments on Wednesday received special equipment to detect and identify dangerous chemicals.

        With the help of a $50,000 federal grant, the Butler County Emergency Management Agency presented the equipment to the hazardous materials units of the Hamilton, Middletown and West Chester Township fire departments at the Government Services Center.

        “This will help us to get a good, quick identification of hazardous materials and will let us know what exactly we're dealing with,” said William Turner, director of the Butler County Emergency Management Agency.

        Although the U.S. Department of Justice designed this hazardous-materials equipment program before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the threat of terrorism makes this equipment all the more valuable, he said.

        “The realization is that you better be prepared because it could happen here,” Mr. Turner said.

        The hazardous-materials units in Hamilton, Middletown and West Chester — the only ones in Butler — work together to cover the entire county.

        This federal program provides fire departments with equipment that had been in the sole possession of the military.

        The equipment allows instant identification of hazardous chemicals involved in terrorist attacks or accidents and eliminates the need to wait for hours and sometimes days for a chemical to be identified.

        “With this equipment, we'll be able to identify the chemicals at the scene and know right away whether we have to evacuate people,” said Lt. Clarence Borneman, of the West Chester Fire Department. “That can save a lot of people.”

        These are the three pieces of equipment given to the three fire departments Wednesday:

        • MiniRAE2000: A photo-ionization detector that will alert firefighters of the presence of hazardous chemicals or gases in vapor.

        • Photovac MicroFID: A flame-ionization detector that identifies contaminants.

        • APD2000: A device that identifies chemicals the other two devices can't, such as anthrax, pepper spray and mustard gas.

        “This equipment will save a lot of time and removes a lot of uncertainty,” said Lt. Mark Mercer, of the Hamilton Fire Department.

        The three fire departments will be trained how to use this equipment during the next three months.

        Butler County will receive additional grants of $59,000 and $160,000 from the Justice Department to buy more hazardous-materials equipment, including a decontamination trailer.

        Middletown Fire Chief John Sauter said this new equipment would be important to Butler County even if there were no were no danger of terrorist attacks.

        “Look at all the trucks carrying hazardous materials going through Butler County,” he said. “There's a lot of risk around us every day that we kind of take for granted.”


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