Overview of the State of Wisconsin Hazardous Materials Response System
By Chief Tim Franz, City of Oshkosh Fire Dept.
The first attempt at a State Haz-Mat system was made all the way back in 1981 when the first haz-mat response vehicle from the former State Division of Emergency Government was deployed to Oshkosh. The intent was that this would be the first of 8 to be delivered across the state, but the program failed to develop for various reasons. In 1991, the current system was born with Wisconsin Act 104, which authorized the former State Emergency Response Board (SERB) to contract with no fewer than seven and no more than 11 Level A Teams. This system truly began to stand up around 1993 and evolved over the next seven years to eventually become a system of eight regional response teams. These teams were designated and contracted by the state and received funding to provide services to designated regions. They were located in Madison, Racine, Milwaukee, Appleton- Oshkosh, Lacrosse, Eau Claire, Wausau and Superior. Over this time period the Regional or Level A teams developed an organizational structure to ensure uniformity in response and training called the Regional Response Team Network.
In 2009 though 2010 a comprehensive review of the state system was conducted. This was further reviewed by the WSFCA along with the Regional Response Team Network and Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM). The result was the current comprehensive State of Wisconsin Hazardous Materials Response Plan. Recognizing that haz-mat response is a low frequency, high risk and costly response issue, the goals of this review and change were to provide an effective yet cost efficient system.
This plan approaches haz-mat incidents from a tiered response approach starting with Type IV though Type I teams. Type IV response resources are local resources such as a "first due" engine company up to a county level team. Type III teams are equipped and staffed to handle known industrial chemical incidents using level A and B protection and monitoring for IDLH atmospheres. Level II teams have the capabilities of a Level III plus the ability to identify unknown chemicals with on site testing and categorization with additionally trained personnel. Finally, Type I Teams have the capabilities of Type II and III teams along with the ability to deal with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and capable of monitoring for chem/bio and radiation. The system is designed to combine the resources of multiple teams of each level for response when needed – no different than responding multiple fire apparatus for a structure fire or larger incident. Type I through III resources are funded through WEM in the state response program and Type IV resources are locally funded along with assistance from annual equipment grants in the EPCRA program. Please see the attached map as to the designation and location of the teams in the system.
Coinciding with the development of the current Hazardous Material Response Plan, the Hazardous Materials Response Network approached the WSFCA to become an official section. The purpose in doing so was to better connect to the state fire service to recognize that the state response system is truly a resource for all of the fire departments in the state. Membership is open to all levels of response, so that we may work together to further develop and integrate this response plan and better serve the citizens in the State of Wisconsin. We encourage you to contact the team nearest you to set up a session to familiarize you with your first due team, their resources and how they can assist you in managing a haz-mat incident in your jurisdiction.
Type I through III resources can be requested by the local Incident Commander through their local County Emergency Management Director or County Dispatch by contacting the WEM Duty Officer at 800-943-0003.
Click here to download a PDF of the Wisconsin Hazardous Materials Response System map.