BEATRICE – Beatrice Fire and Rescue has fielded a Hazardous Materials Unit since the late 1990s. Now, the department is the first to be designated a Hazmat Response Team Type Three in Nebraska, designated by a Nebraska Emergency Management Association review board.  Beatrice Fire and Rescue has one of ten Hazmat response teams in Nebraska.

"The Homeland Security, with Emergency Management has started typing teams and typing that way, if you ask for a fire truck...a type-one fire pumper as opposed to a type-five fire pumper....structural firefighting is a type one.....type five would be like your little grass buggy."

Beatrice Fire and Rescue Chief Brian Daake says the typing system is now also being applied to regional Hazmat teams. "We've started out with the type three, which is we can handle pretty much any day-to-day hazardous materials response....where, if the state wanted us to go type one, that would be very unrealistic. Maybe as a state we could do that, but a type one team would be like somebody that would be in charge of a Katrina-type event."

Daake says department personnel have gone through the training to become the first type-three Hazmat unit in Nebraska. Hazmat technicians themselves must complete nearly 120 hours of training to be certified. Several department members have that certification, which includes testing for written and practical skills.
As a regional unit the department can handle situations far beyond things such as a common fuel spill.

"Usually those are the unknown materials. Obviously, after 2001 terror attack on the United States, we got a lot of powder calls like everybody else did. Those were challenges because you had to go through the process of trying to figure out what that powder was. The ones that we were involved with was a barrel that fell off of a truck and was in a field....those type of things."

Firefighter EMTs Grant Gordon and Dylan Wenz displayed for us the various equipment the team uses, including Level A Hazmat suits designed to be used only once in a response situation…and flash suits that protect responders against heat or fire.

There are other regional Hazmat units in Nebraska including Omaha, Bellevue, Columbus, Norfolk, Grand Island, Hastings, Red Willow Western, North Platte and Scottsbluff.

Daake says it appears the next department to achieve the Hazmat Type three designation will be Omaha, with Grand Island and Hastings close behind.