Recently, the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders recognized 14 individuals who achieved the status of Lifetime Member of the county Hazardous Materials Response Team.
“We are fortunate to have so many capable and experienced HAZ-MAT team members who have the necessary skills to undertake any emergency, and the knowledge and experience needed to train other team members,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Mark Caliguire, public health and safety liaison.
“It was an honor to present citations to these Lifetime Members,” said Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione. “We are grateful for their many years of dedicated service.”
To accomplish the title of Lifetime Member, an individual must have devoted at least 15 consecutive years of service to the county Hazardous Materials Response Team. Lifetime Members can be either active or retired HAZ-MAT colleagues, who provide emergency response experience, public safety education and are engaged in the training and education of other team members.
The Somerset County Hazardous Materials Response Team (SCHMRT), which is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is comprised of volunteers. HAZ-MAT personnel respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive releases. The team is responsible for technical guidance, hazard mitigation, victim rescue, and the control and capture of hazardous materials.
Hazardous materials come in many forms. They can be liquids, powders, solids, or gases. They can be explosives, flammable, and combustible substances, poisons, and radioactive materials.
The SCHMRT 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. Relationships include, but are not limited to, local/county and state emergency service providers, New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management, Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environmental Protection. Planning and exercising is an ongoing process. Exercises involving WMD, bio-terrorism, meth labs, gross decontamination and evacuations are conducted.
The team is overseen by the Somerset County Office of Emergency Management. The volunteer members, emergency operations, administrative tasks, coordination of training and equipment maintenance are managed by the Chief.
SCHMRT members are required to complete mandated required training and annually approved hazardous materials training refreshers each calendar year to maintain their individual proficiency. Members that do not achieve this degree of continuing education and participation are removed from active hazmat duty. This mandate assures that the members comprised of this team are not only proficient in new response techniques, but are familiar with working with each other as a team in extreme conditions in abnormal situations.
The Somerset County Office of Emergency Management also is responsible for emergency services coordination at large incidents, the Emergency Services Training Academy, the county 911 Communications Center located in Somerville and severe weather monitoring and response.
For more information, contact Deputy Coordinator Shannon Snook, Somerset County Office of Emergency Management, at (908) 541-5685.
Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione, center, was joined by Somerset County Office of Emergency Management Director Doug Vornlocker, second from right, for the presentation of citations and plaques to newly appointed Lifetime Members of the Hazardous Materials Response Team, at a recent Board of Chosen Freeholders Meeting. The HAZ-MAT members are, from left to right, David Vaughn (34 years), Roy Gunzelman (30 years), Doug Rue (17 years), Walter Zieser (29 years), Milton Peabody (34 years), George Jones (34 years), Scott Vincent (18 years), William Iden (20 years), Gregory Snook Sr.(18 years) and Gregg Snyder (34 years).