Hazardous Materials Team
Plano's Hazmat team operates out of Station 5, known by its members as “The Best in the West.” Station 5 is staffed with 30 personnel spread across three shifts, and operates as a “dual company house” with a fully staffed Engine and Truck Company. Typically, when a Hazmat response is required, one member from each apparatus will move over to Hazmat 5, also known as “The Bus.”
Hazmat team members are required to obtain three certifications (Hazmat Technician, Rope Rescue Operator and Confined Space Technician), which represent the base level training. Once assigned to the Hazmat team, members continue training in specialty courses that make up the core competencies of the Hazmat program. These courses include:
- PER 261 - Hazardous Materials Technician for CBRNE Incidents (40 hrs.)
- PER 230 - Performance Level Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings (27 hrs.)
- PER 231 - Prevention of and Response to Suicide Bombing Incidents (34 hrs.)
- PER 354 - Response to Radiological/Nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents (21 hrs.)
- PER 222 - Public Safety WMD Response - Sampling Techniques and Guidelines (24 hrs.)
- PER 293 - Rail Course HAZMAT/WMD Tech for Surface Transportation (80 hrs.)
- ICS 300 & 400 (40 hrs.)
Many of these courses are funded through federal grant programs under the Department of Homeland Security. These training classes are held at numerous locations across the country. Recently, Plano Fire-Rescue started hosting training opportunities that allow personnel from the Hazmat program, as well as other Hazmat teams in the metroplex, to acquire training locally. In addition to the core competencies, team members continually attend training classes and exercises related to the Hazmat field as those opportunities are presented.
Due to the high costs and large amounts of personnel necessary to respond to a Hazmat incident, many small and medium sized municipalities and their fire departments rely on a cooperative response to mitigate the scene of a Hazmat incident. As a member of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), the Plano Fire-Rescue Hazmat Program also serves as a regional response team. The NCTOG is a 16-county region of North Central Texas, centered on the two urban centers of Dallas and Ft. Worth. This 16-county regional district serves numerous cities, school districts and special districts. The City of Plano is also part of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS), which makes use of local resources in the event of natural disasters. Along with the agencies previously listed, Plano Fire Hazmat serves as a primary backup to the Dallas Fire-Rescue Hazmat team.
In January 2019, the Hazmat team put into service a new Hazmat 5 apparatus. Designed by a committee of team members, this new apparatus gives the Hazmat team resources to efficiently and successfully accomplish the numerous tasks and requirements of Hazmat incidents - today and well into the future.
History of the Hazmat Team
In the early 1980s, government agencies, from the federal level all the way down to the municipal level, identified the need for hazardous materials response and mitigation through numerous incidents that involved the spill and/or release of hazardous materials or unknown substances. Multiple government agencies developed guidelines, standards, and regulations for the production, storage, and transportation of hazardous materials, as well as the mitigation of incidents involving them. This discipline, known today as “Hazmat,” became another critical incident category for the evolving “all hazard” matrix that makes up the fire service today. Alongside most large or growing municipalities, the City of Plano, recognizing the future and population potential of our then “young city,” tasked Plano Fire-Rescue with starting a Hazardous Materials program to meet this new growing need. In the late 1990s and into the new millennium, the threat of terrorist incidents and activity involving chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear, and explosives (known as “CBRNE”) increased the field of responsibility for the response and mitigation to Hazmat teams across the nation. Through both city and grant funding, the Plano Fire-Rescue Hazmat Program has continuously grown over the years, acquiring the training and equipment to respond to any and all Hazmat incidents that may occur.