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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New 'toolbox' will aid Regional Hazardous Materials Team

Thursday, July 8, 2004

(Photo)
The cities of Jackson and Sikesotn recently came together to approve a new vehicle for the team similar to this.
SIKESTON - "Basically this is a huge toolbox," said Sikeston Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden. But this "toolbox" could be the difference between life and death, health and safety should the Regional Hazardous Materials Team be called to a waste spill or a bio-terrorism situation.

Juden's "toolbox" is the new $393,000 vehicle approved for purchase for the team, which is a joint venture by the cities of Jackson and Sikeston. Funded through the federal government's Homeland Security Administration, the purchase was approved Tuesday night by the Jackson City Council which has funding oversight.

At just under 30 feet in length and standing 10-feet tall, Juden described the vehicle as a "fire truck without water hoses or a pumper." What it will have is plenty of storage for the equipment the regional group has acquired over the past three years.

Currently, the equipment is stored on five trailers and divided between the two communities. "Now, we won't look like a band of gypsies going down the highway," said Juden. "In a major event, it will take all our equipment to handle it which is why we chose to go with one large vehicle."

Juden said the team has yet to work out how the vehicle's time will be divided between the two communities. He did point out that at the moment nly Sikeston has a place large enough to keep it.

Also both communities will continue to maintain some equipment. According to Juden this will enable team members closest to a hazardous situation to begin their response, no matter where the truck is located.

Ordered in St. Louis on Wednesday by team representatives, including Sikeston DPS Capt. Jim Hailey, the vehicle should arrive in 250 to 270 days.

Its arrival is already being anticipated by the 44-member team including the 20 local officers trained to deal with hazardous materials.

"There is a big need in the region which is the reason we have taken the regional approach to the hazardous materials, WMD problem," said Juden. "There are a lot of transportation accidents which involve hazardous materials and trains which carry hazardous materials through the region. But neither town had the manpower to fully staff, fully train a hazardous materials response team. Regionally, we do."

Also the team benefits from support teams in Poplar Bluff and West Plains and a primary team located at Kennett. The Department of Natural Resources also has a team which responds to hazardous spill situations.

According to Juden, the Homeland Security grant funds have covered all the equipment costs in addition to the new truck. "That is one of the things we have been very lucky in. Over the lifecycle of agreement so far we have received over a million dollars for the two cities," he said, pointing out the cities' costs are in training and for personnel.

"Without the Homeland Security money, we would be a long way from where we are at now," he said. "We would still be waiting four to six hours for a team out of Memphis any time we had some type of event. Now if something happens, we can handle right here."