Hazardous Materials Unit
The NOFD Hazardous Materials Unit, or Hazmat Unit, brings under control and mitigates any incidents inside of New Orleans involving release of potentially toxic substances. Hazmat work hand-in-hand with many outside agencies, including Louisiana State Police Hazmat Unit, Department of Environmental Quality, and United States Secret Service.
Hazmat Response Team Composition
The Unit has three personnel assigned to it per platoon, One Captain, One Operator and One Firefighter. Should a Hazmat incident occur and more personnel be needed, the Rescue and/or Flying Squads may back up the Hazmat team.
Hazmat Response Team Deployment
The Hazmat Unit responds to multiple kinds of hazards, including
Release of toxic substances into the air or on the ground, including, but not limited to odors, carbon monoxide, gas leaks, fuel spills, household chemical spills, train derailments, explosions, suspected bombs, tear gas releases, red dye packs from bank money, suspicious packages, letters and white substances, plane crashes, and chemical releases on barges and ships, in aircraft and airports, or in canals, drains and waterways.
All three-alarm or greater fires
Confined space rescues where the atmosphere must be monitored with meters by trained personnel
Special events and visits, including Presidential visits
The New Orleans Fire Department established a Hazardous Materials officer in the mid 1970s for training and coordination of response personnel. As more emphasis was placed on hazardous materials incidents, the New Orleans Fire Department established a dedicated Hazardous Materials Team and custom-designed an apparatus in 1989. Since the inception of the team the focus has been on specialized training and equipment to maintain an effective response to varies types of hazardous materials incidents.
Several acts of terrorism occurred in the United States during the 1990s; these events highlighted the need for domestic preparedness by first responders. The Hazardous Materials Team began a transformation in the 1990s from one of chemical response to a more diverse role. The incidents now include Chemical, Ordinance, Biological and Radiological (COBRA) and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).