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Hazard Materials Team  


The San Luis Obispo Hazmat Team is a multi-agency team comprised of 30 members from Cal Fire, San Luis Obispo City, Arroyo Grande Fire, Paso Robles City, Atascadero Fire, San Luis Obispo County Environmental Health, and the California Men’s Colony.  

The mission of the San Luis Obispo County Hazardous Materials Team is four-fold:

 Protection of public health and safety

 Protection of the environment and mitigation of environmental damage

 Protection of property and assets

  Safety of all emergency responders

Besides dealing with typical emergency response challenges, the HazMat Team intentionally intervenes in chemical, biological, and radiological accidents. A new aspect of emergency response our Team is trained for is WMD or Weapons of Mass Destruction incidents. Specialized skills and equipment of the HazMat Team are needed for responding to this type of incident.

What is a "hazardous material?"

A hazardous material, by definition, is "any element, compound or substance that poses an unreasonable risk to health or property and which, because of handling, storage, processing or packaging, may have detrimental effects on emergency personnel, the public, equipment and/or the environment."

In respect with mission items above, 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.

It is common to not feel threatened from hazardous substances during our daily activities, but consider the size of the county (3661 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

- Post emergency 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 San Luis Obispo County Heath. 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/County Health 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 the HAZMAT truck or its ""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 hazard 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., 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), which is the pathway to and from the Hot Zone





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