The Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Hazardous Materials Response Team (Hazmat Team, or HMRT) was founded in 1979 and was the first fire department hazardous materials response team in Broward County. The Hazmat Team has been extensively trained and equipped to respond to the threat and/or deployment of nuclear, radiological, chemical, or biological weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Over 70 members within Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue are Hazardous Materials Technician certified. The initial training for this certification is 160 hours of technician level training, followed by annual refresher training that meets or exceeds the State Emergency Response Commission for Hazardous Materials recommended refresher competencies.
The Hazmat Team is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is one of four regionally posted Hazmat teams. The Team not only responds to incidents within the City of Fort Lauderdale and within Broward County, but also has the equipment, training, and capabilities to respond State-wide. A minimum of five Hazmat Technicians are on duty at all times. Based on the size and scope of an incident, additional Technicians from around the City may be requested to respond as needed.
Common types of calls the Hazmat Team responds to involve propane or natural gas leaks, acid spills, gasoline spills, chemical spills, and chlorine and vapor leaks. Common household calls often involve BBQ grill propane tanks and natural or propane gas leaks in pipes or appliances.
The Hazmat Team trains frequently with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department's Special Operations Units, including working with the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD, or Bomb Squad) and the Environmental Crimes Division. The Team provides Hazmat training to other local agencies, such as awareness level training and hosts a variety of specialty classes (Propane Emergencies, Advanced Radiation courses, etc) regularly.
The Hazmat Team also works with several local, regional and federal agencies to develop protocols for different types of hazardous material emergencies. These multi-agency partnerships have been strengthened to foster interagency knowledge, as well as to develop an understanding of what each agency's role is in an emergency situation.
The Hazmat team is outfitted with a tractor-trailer to store and transport the various pieces of equipment and protective gear necessary for hazardous materials emergencies. The Medical Rescue Unit assigned to the Hazmat Team is equipped with advanced technology, such as a Forward Looking Infrared Camera (FLIR), multiple multi-gas monitors, and radiation detection technology both inside and outside the unit.
All Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Operations Division units are equipped with chemical/biological protective suits for use at hazardous materials incidents. All department medical transport units are equipped to treat and transport victims of chemical or biological exposure.
The Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue has the capability and equipment to decontaminate, treat and transport victims of chemical or biological exposure. When not responding to or training for hazardous materials emergencies, the members of the Hazmat team staff an Advanced Life Support (ALS) equipped engine company and respond to standard fire and medical emergencies.
Contact Battalion Chief Stephen Shaw for additional information regarding HazMat operations; Phone: 954-828-3616 or email SShaw@Fortlauderdale.gov.
What is a "hazardous material?"
A hazardous material, by definition, is "any element, compound or substance that poses an unreasonable risk to health or property and which, because of handling, storage, processing or packaging, may have detrimental effects on emergency personnel, the public, equipment and/or the environment."