Provincial and Municipal Responders Demonstrate Preparedness for Hazardous Materials Emergencies



    SARNIA, ON, Sept. 9 /CNW/ - Provincial CBRNE/Hazmat (chemical,
biological, radiation, nuclear and explosives/Hazardous materials) teams
participated in an annual program exercise today in Sarnia to demonstrate
their readiness and ability to respond and support municipal fire services
when required during an actual emergency or disaster.
    "Complex major emergencies can and do happen. Today's exercise
demonstrated the strengths and skills of municipal and provincial CBRNE/Hazmat
resources working together to safely mitigate an actual hazardous material
emergency in Ontario," explained Pat Burke, Fire Marshal of Ontario. "The
members of the provincial CBRNE/Hazmat teams must be able to work with local
responders to assess any CBRNE/Hazmat incident and make vital decisions very
quickly. This type of ongoing training helps improve and refine the skills of
both our provincial teams and municipal fire services."
    The simulated complex emergency was created at a busy intersection and
involved the collision of a tanker and a box trailer transporting a mixed load
of chemicals and products. The tanker was damaged and was leaking a hazardous
chemical.
    Sarnia Fire Rescue Services suppression crews and their hazardous
materials response team were the first to respond and assess the situation.
The Sarnia Hazmat response team quickly determined that they would require
additional assistance as the fire department was already responding to a
serious fire elsewhere and their resources were limited. The combined Level 2
Provincial CBRNE/Hazmat team from Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo and a
Level 3 team from Windsor were then notified and deployed to respond.
    As the morning progressed, details were revealed to the teams to simulate
a realistic emergency. The teams were continuously challenged by a series of
rigorous scenarios, with students from Lambton College posing as victims with
serious injuries.
    "The effectiveness and level of preparedness of the teams are evaluated
during this type of exercise. The results help us as we work with our teams
and municipal partners to continually enhance the program to serve the needs
of local communities in the interest of public safety," said Carol-Lynn
Chambers, OFM Operations Manager/Chief of the provincial program. "Through a
partnership with the City of Sarnia, the local mutual aid system, provincial
emergency response support systems and in cooperation with the United States,
State of Michigan, Bluewater Bridge Authority and the Canadian Border Security
Agency, a successful exercise was achieved today."
    "The provincial CBRNE response teams fit well within Sarnia's unified
command system," said Pat Cayen, Fire Chief of Sarnia Fire & Rescue Services.
"Overall, the exercise was a positive learning experience for all the
participants and organizers."
    Strategically located throughout the province, support from these teams
can be requested by mutual aid fire coordinators on a 24/7 basis through the
Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.



    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    After 9/11, the Province, through the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM),
helped to establish a comprehensive emergency response support system for the
province in which certain provincial and municipal resources could be deployed
in support of local municipalities that experience major emergencies. Under
the coordination of the OFM, the capability of purchasing and maintaining the
equipment and then funding the ongoing training to respond to major CBRNE
(chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives) and HUSAR (heavy
urban search and rescue) incidents is now shared by the provincial government
for the safety of all Ontario residents, not just a few.
    The purpose of this system is to provide an appropriate response to
provincial emergencies and disasters, either natural or human-caused. Working
in partnership with local municipalities, mutual aid systems and emergency
responders, the system is implemented whenever these types of events exceed
the local capabilities of a community and the broader mutual aid system.
    Through an ongoing series of Memorandums of Understanding with nine
municipalities, and the OFM's own resources, this province-wide system
provides additional resources and capabilities in support of local
municipalities that may experience "significant" emergencies, either natural
or human-caused. Working in partnership with local municipalities, mutual aid
systems and emergency responders, the system is implemented whenever these
types of events exceed the local capabilities of a community and the broader
mutual aid system. In all, there are a total of nine CBRNE teams (and one
HUSAR team) strategically located throughout the province:

    CBRNE/Hazmat Teams (Level 3 - Technician) - Windsor, Toronto, and Ottawa

    CBRNE/Hazmat Teams (Level 2 - Operations) - Thunder Bay, Sault Ste.
Marie, North Bay, Peterborough, Cornwall and a combined team from Waterloo,
Kitchener, and Cambridge.

    HUSAR (Heavy Urban Search and Rescue) - Toronto

    
    In this context, significant emergency is defined as:

    -   a large-scale or complex natural or human caused chemical, biological
        radiological, or nuclear emergency, or
    -   a large-scale or complex natural or human caused heavy urban search
        and rescue emergency,

    where
    -   the need for resources to respond effectively to the situation
        exceeds local capabilities, and
    -   the municipality has declared an emergency or is in the process of
        doing so.

    The provincial program operates in accordance with recognized standards
(the National Fire Protection Association Standard 472, Professional
Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials Incidents) that covers minimum
competencies of persons responding to hazardous materials incidents and
specifies three levels:

    -   Level 1 or Awareness level: first responders are expected to
        recognize the presence of hazardous materials, protect themselves,
        call for trained personnel and secure the area;
        -  All municipal first responders are expected to operate at a
           minimum "awareness" level of response to hazardous materials
           emergencies that may occur in their communities.
    -   Level 2 or Operations level: persons who respond as part of initial
        response are expected to respond in defensive manner to control the
        release of hazardous materials from a safe distance and keep it from
        spreading;
        -  Provincial teams: Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay,
           Peterborough, Cornwall, and a combined team from
           Cambridge/Kitchener/Waterloo
    -   Level 3 or Technician level: person who responds for the purpose of
        controlling the release of hazardous materials using specialized
        protective clothing and control equipment.
        -  Provincial teams: Windsor, Toronto, and Ottawa

    Provincial teams may be activated through the county, district or region
fire coordinator, subject to the following conditions being met:

    -   The local municipality has responded but has insufficient resources
        or capability to effectively deal with or resolve the situation.
    -   Appropriate resources available through the local county, district or
        region are also insufficient to effectively deal with or resolve the
        situation.
    -   The fire coordinator, or alternate, for the county, district or
        region has verified that the two conditions above have been met.
    -   The municipality has declared an emergency, or is in the process of
        doing so.
    

    A fire department may have to respond to incidents that are not
"significant emergencies" but that nonetheless are beyond the fire
department's capabilities and require additional resources. Through the
Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC), the OFM can deploy technical
and/or equipment support in order to assist in mitigating the situation. The
OFM may in turn request specialized technical expertise from the MOU partners
or other sources of assistance to help the fire department.
    Combined with a focus of working with municipalities to mitigate
provincial emergencies and disasters, CBRNE teams are also multi-disciplinary.
On a regular basis they are trained to be knowledgeable about the latest
technologies and innovations when it comes to chemical, biological,
radiological and nuclear materials. It is fortunate provincial emergencies and
disasters do not happen everyday. However, when they do happen, the citizens
of Ontario can rest assured a system is in place to address them, particularly
if they require the coordination of municipal and provincial resources.

    Sarnia Fire Rescue Services Hazardous Materials Team

    The Sarnia Fire Rescue Services Hazardous Materials Team was
re-established in 2004 due to the identified needs and circumstances of the
municipality. The department purchased specialized equipment and initiated
department wide training after a ten-year absence.
    Since 2004, over 100 firefighters have been trained to the hazardous
materials operations level and over 40 firefighters to the hazardous materials
technician level.
    Currently, Sarnia Fire Rescue Services has a Technician Level Team
consisting of 21 members. Each year, members attend annual technician
refresher courses, industrial training and participate in various exercises
involving neighbouring industry, cross-border municipalities and other
government agencies.





For further information:

For further information: or to request an interview with the Fire
Marshal, contact: Gina Pontikas, Office of the Fire Marshal, (416) 427-9795;
Bev Gilbert, Office of the Fire Marshal, (416) 325-3178

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