Hazardous Materials Unit displays equipment at ribbon cutting

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 29, 2003

If hazardous materials should ever spill in Dallas County, the Haz/Mat team will be on the job.

That’s what citizens learned Thursday morning as they stood beneath a hot August sun in Bloch Park. Brett Howard, Dallas County Emergency Management Agency director, spoke to a crowd of about 30 people about the Dallas County Hazardous Materials Unit, or Haz/Mat.

One piece of equipment, a hazmatcad plus, costs about $7,000. Selma Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Stokes said it just takes a point and a click of the machine to determine what kind of chemical has been spilled and how many parts per million of it are present.

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Sitting next to it was a kit Haz/Mat team members can use to test for the presence of nerve agents, whether they be Agent Orange, blood or blister agents. &uot;It’s all military equipment,&uot; Stokes said.

According to Howard, the equipment was purchased from two grants provided through the U.S. Department of Justice. Instead of taking the money and distributing it piecemeal to the various fire departments in the county, the funds were used to create the Haz/Mat unit.

One reason for the unit’s creation was the number of chemicals transported through Selma on a daily basis by train.

Haz/Mat volunteers from the Selma Fire Department and volunteer fire departments were present to display and answer questions about the equipment. Before returning the unit’s equipment to its storage area, volunteers inflated a 18-foot by 23-foot tent.

The tent can be used as a decontamination unit or an on-site hospital. Showers can be installed in the tent and used to wash chemicals off anyone contaminated before they are put in protective clothing and placed in the triage area.

Victims would then be placed on colored mats indicating their need for medical attention and shortening the time hospital personnel would have to spend diagnosing them.

Anyone interested in donating equipment to the Haz/Mat unit should contact Howard at 874-2515.