History of Allegheny County's
Five Hazardous Material Teams
- On June 28, 1988, the Allegheny County Commissioners presented the first specially equipped Hazardous Materials unit to the East Boroughs Response Organization ("Red Team") in a special ceremony at the Allegheny County Courthouse.
- The five Hazmat units have been placed in strategic locations. Allegheny County is divided into five sections, with the Blue Team (N.E.A.R.A.) serving the Northeast and Northwest areas; the Red Team (East Borough Response Organization) serving the eastern areas; the Green Team (Specialized Intervention Team) serving the entire South Hills; the Silver Team (North Hills Response Team) serving 25 municipalities north of the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers; and the City of Pittsburgh Gold Team, responding to emergencies within Pittsburgh, and to any other section of Allegheny County, upon request of Allegheny County Emergency Management.
- The trucks are equipped with the latest Hazardous Materials equipment, each having encapsulated suits, the latest in monitoring equipment, and communications capabilities. The units are equipped with fire frequency radios that enable communications to every fire department in Allegheny County.
- All Hazardous Materials Teams are dispatched through the Allegheny County Emergency Management Division and Enhanced 9-1-1 Centers.
- In June of 1987, Hazardous Materials Programs were introduced to area firefighters. More than 2,200 firefighters attended the 33 programs offered at the Allegheny County Fire Training Academy in 1987 alone, with hundred more completing, at other locations, the 166 hours of extensive training necessary to qualify them as members of the County-wide Hazmat Team. The training is continuous and on-going.
- From 1988 through 2000, Allegheny County's five Hazmat teams have responded to over 1000 incidents.
- All five Hazardous Materials Teams are fully certified by Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
CITY OF PITTSBURGH
The City of Pittsburgh Hazardous Materials Team is comprised of 85 team members. Manpower for the team is drawn from both the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, providing paramedics, and the Bureau of Fire, providing firefighters. All personnel are career employees of the City of Pittsburgh and work in concert to reduce the threat of hazardous materials when released into the environment.
The Pittsburgh Hazardous Materials Team responds to incidents throughout the City from stations located in Shadyside, Manchester, and Downtown. Team members are trained to the levels recognized by Allegheny County and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which, for most, exceeds some 166 hours of time and experience.
The Pittsburgh Hazardous Materials Team is proud of its achievements. The team was the first Haz Mat team in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to be awarded full advanced Haz Mat team certification as per the certification standards enacted under Act 165 of 1990. In 1989, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce awarded the team the " Intergovernmental Cooperation Award" for outstanding contribution to promoting and implementing the practice for intergovernmental cooperation in Allegheny County.
The Pittsburgh Haz Mat team is dispatched 24 hours [per day by the City of Pittsburgh Emergency Operations Center by calling 9-1-1.
NORTH HILLS RESPONSE
The Silver Team serves 25 municipalities north of the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers. Membership is compiled mainly of firefighters, emergency medical service personnel, police officers, industrial personnel, and other trained volunteers.
The Silver Team was formed July 25, 1989 when high levels of concern were raised about the size of the territory and response time for the Blue Team. Many of the Silver Team's members were already 166 hours certified with the Blue Team. The truck is housed at the Seville Volunteer Fire Deportment, Ross Township.
NORTHEAST ALLEGHENY RESPONSE ASSOCIATION
The Northeast Allegheny Response Association (N.E.A.R.A.), was established October 8, 1986. N.E.A.R.A. originally was composed of 33 municipalities bounded roughly by Millvale, Natrona Heights, West Deer Twp., and the Borough of Plum. There are 42 volunteer fire departments and/or companies within those municipalities with approximately 100 firefighters interested in hazardous materials training. Eventually, 30 people completed the required 166-hour training curriculum required by the County of Allegheny. N.E.A.R.A. currently serves 22 municipalities and 35 fire departments. The truck is housed at the Guyasuta Volunteer Fire Department, Station #2.
SPECIALIZED INTERVENTION TEAM (S.I.T)
SOUTH HILLS AREA
The Specialized Intervention Team (SIT) was formed in mid-1987 by several fire departments in the South Hills area of Allegheny County.
The team is presently made up of 32 active personnel from the Castle Shannon, Dormont, Glendale, Broughton, Brentwood and Mount Oliver Volunteer Fire Departments.
The team responded to 31 incidents in its first five years. It first major response was to the Ashland Oil Spill in January of 1988.
The team's training runs from September through May. The team trains once a month on the third Wednesday and conducts approximately five training sessions on Sundays each training year. The Green Team vehicles are housed at the Castle Shannon and Broughton Volunteer Fire Departments.
Due to continuous discussions at the Allegheny County level regarding the possibility of forming several Hazardous Materials teams, the East Borough's Fire Association decided in 1986 to sponsor a Haz Mat team and invited interested, trained fire responders from its area to participate.
The Westinghouse Research and Development Center offered to host the training at its facility in the Borough of Churchill. A "basic instruction" curriculum consisting of 48 hours was determined based on the experiences of the existing two teams in the county: the city of Pittsburgh Team and the Specialized Intervention Team.
The first training date was February 26, 1987 and had 72 persons in attendance, 43 of whom remain on the team today. The basic training program continued at four hours per evening, one night a week for 12 weeks. Robert Full from the City of Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Services and Haz Mat Team was the training officer and coordinator, with various instructors provided by the Allegheny County Fire Training Academy. And on July 15, 1988, certificates were presented to 57 persons who completed the Allegheny County mandated 166 hours of training.
Because the volunteers could not be assured as to who was capable of responding to any alarm/call, it was decided to organize the team with very broad-based leadership. Three team coordinators and 14 team leaders were designated, based on past training, experience and leadership positions with their fire departments, etc. The same progressive organizational leadership exists today and has served the team well. Ant of those persons can become the team's Incident Commander during extensive incidents.
The Haz Mat vehicle purchased by Allegheny County was issued to the East Borough's Red Team on July 14, 1998, and is housed at the Forest Hills Volunteer Fire Department.