Jackson, Sikeston to form haz-mat emergency team

Monday, October 15, 2001

JACKSON, Mo. -- The Jackson Fire Department and the Sikeston Department of Public Safety will form a new team that will respond to hazardous materials incidents in the region, including the kind of biological-chemical terrorist assaults law enforcement agencies currently are so concerned about.

The Southeast Missouri Hazardous Materials Team actually has been training for about a year. The Jackson Board of Aldermen is expected to pass an ordinance today that formally will establish the relationship with the Sikeston Department of Public Safety under the cities' mutual aid agreement.

The closest operational hazardous materials team is based in the St. Louis area.

Jackson Fire Chief Brad Golden is co-coordinator of the team along with Sikeston Police Chief Drew Juden. Golden said the team has been in the works for nearly two years.

Several members of the team already have been to Anniston, Ala., for training in handling hazardous materials. Another group is going to New Mexico next month for training in handling explosives. The team now also is eligible to be trained to respond to weapons of mass destruction.

Jackson paired with Sikeston because DPS officers are cross-trained as firefighters and police officers. A SWAT team has to be tied to the unit for it to be operational and to qualify for grants.

Qualify for grants

The agreement with Sikeston will mean the team can qualify for $250,000 in grants to acquire equipment. One of the pieces of equipment that will be stored at an undisclosed location in Jackson will be capable of decontaminating up to 1,200 people per hour.

The system consists of six inflatable shelters with shower systems, as support unit with a water heater and an air purifier.

The team could respond to anything from a small chemical spill causing a noxious odor to a large spill threatening a broader population.

Jackson Mayor Paul Sander said being part of the team puts Jackson "ahead of the game when we have that type of equipment our disposal.

"We are planning for something we hope never happens," he said. "I'm telling you if it does we'll be awfully glad we have it.

"This type of equipment makes a whole lot more sense now than it did in the past."

Juden was unavailable to comment about the team.

The boundaries for the team's activities haven't been drawn yet, but Golden said he expects them to include Scott and New Madrid counties to the south.

He said the team will train with local fire departments and will work with the local emergency planning district.

Cape Girardeau was in on the early discussions of forming the team. "They continue being involved, but due to the time lines and date restrictions we had to go ahead and move forward," Golden said.

"Obviously, after Sept. 11, things were sped up," Golden said. "That was sped up because of state emergency management.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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