BY DANIEL CUNNING
Hazmat teams are loaded with an ever-increasing variety of entry tools and equipment. Our team in the Hoboken (NJ) Fire Department will respond to an “unknown” in Level A suits carrying a 4EC radiation meter, a four-gas photoionization detector, a thermal imaging camera, a wireless digital camera, flashlights (especially if power to the hazmat scene is shut down), chemical detection strips (including pH, M8, M9, and oxy test strips), as well as handheld chemical and gas analyzers. That’s just for a recon team. Another sampling team will carry in sampling pipettes/swabs to collect samples for further testing.
Using our hazmat response cart, we can send a two-person team into a large area hands-free, equipped with a search line and a stretcher for retrieving a victim or a team member in distress. The first member walks in front with a four-gas meter, followed by the second one pushing the cart and paying out search line (photo 1).
|(1) Photos by Michael Stefano.|
The cart was adapted from an old postal letter carrier’s cart. Two supermarket shopping baskets are attached on each side, and an attached drop bag includes a 150-foot search line that the backup team can follow. The line can also be used to tow the stretcher. Portable hand lights, mounted on the platforms above each large wheel with duct tape, provide additional light and stability. Elastic cords hold the stretcher onto the front of the cart.
Designed to carry a lot of weight, the cart also folds flat for easy storage in our response vehicle (photo 2). It is also equipped with a brake and goes up and down stairs fairly easily. The rope drop bag is stored in one of the baskets, which stack inside of each other. When using this cart at drills, we load the baskets with all our usual entry equipment and sampling instruments. The sampling equipment baskets never touch the ground, and if the recon team runs out of time or air, the next team can follow the rope to the spill while the recon team follows it out.
DANIEL CUNNING, a battalion chief and 24-year veteran of the Hoboken (NJ) Fire Department, commands the department’s hazmat response team, one of three in Hudson County. The Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne teams rotate county-wide hazmat duty. Occupying the Hudson River waterfront, the county is connected to New York City by the Holland and Lincoln tunnels and the PATH rail lines.