Local Emergency Planning Committee members seen left to right: Jackson County Emergency Manager Wayne Cain, City of Altus Emergency Manager Lloyd Colston, Altus Fire Rescue (AFR), Fire Fighter Michael Grayson, AFR, Battalion Chief Jimmy Rogers, Jackson County Memorial Hospital representative and LEPC Chairman Ray Miller, AFR, Fire Fighter Ralph Walker, Disaster Services Specialist for American Red Cross Rosalyn Hall, AFR, Retired Bobby Henry, and LEPC Secretary/Treasurer Phillip Beauchamp. In the background, is the Altus Fire Rescue Haz Mat Response Trailer.
The City of Altus/Jackson County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) made a monetary donation to the Altus Fire Rescue/Combat Challenge Team in an effort to support and assist with training expense reimbursement.
Most people don’t realize it, but the most serious catastrophic crisis that the average American faces, on a daily basis, is that of a Hazardous Material release. A Haz Mat release can be as involved as a multi-car railroad derailment that might result in the release of large amounts anhydrous ammonia to as small as a 55 gallon drum of some kind of cleaning fluid falling off the back of a truck.
No one will argue that chemicals are a necessity to our way of life but a Hazardous Material incident begins when an uncontrolled quantity or concentration is spilled or somehow unintentionally released.
Hazardous Material Incidents happen everyday somewhere in the US. And when they happen here in Southwest Oklahoma, that is when Altus Fire Rescue (AFR) is called into action. AFR is responsible for “Region 3” which is a 16 county area situated from I-35, west to the state line and from I-40, south to the state line.
In an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security, AFR has been assigned and utilizes some of the most modern and up-to-date Haz Mat response equipment available anywhere. When called into action, the AFR Haz Mat team will arrive in a fully self-contained Haz Mat regional response trailer complete with a heavy duty diesel tow rig. This response unit is complete with lighting, Haz Mat testing equipment, protective gear for responders to wear when working the incident as well as de-contamination facilities when needed. The value of this response rig is estimated to be in the area of $600,000 to $ 750,000.
But having good equipment is just a place to start. This level of extreme equipment must be accompanied by highly trained response technicians to accomplish the task. Training is the key to mission success and AFR is committed to that end. AFR is required to pass a very extensive and difficult annual Haz Mat response re-certification test. This is only done by intensive training which AFR works at on a weekly basis.
When asked, AFR Haz Mat response technicians will tell you that one of the most important and difficult tasks that they face, when arriving on scene, is that of protecting the public. Often a Hazardous Material will be difficult to see and identify and even harder to determine just how far reaching the contamination scene has grown. Then there is the physical demands that the protective gear places on the response technician. The “Moon Suits,” that are so often a response requirement, can take their toll on a technician’s ability to work for long periods of time. For this reason, during a response effort, there is always a full support staff in the rear, assigned to watch over and protect the AFR Technicians who step forward to protect us.
The City of Altus is very lucky to have this asset here in our own backyard and that is why the members of the City of Altus/Jackson County LEPC have decided to help these men who will step forward in a time of crisis.