Hunter Fire Department trains with local, federal authorities

Photos by Sgt. Craig Zentkovich

A member of the Chatham County Sheriff's Department special tactics team secures a sector of woodline during a joint exercise conducted by Rescue Training Inc held at Hunter Army Airfield Feb. 6. The Hunter Fire Department, Marine Security Force, Pentagon Police ERT participated.

Hunter Fire Department trains with local, federal authorities
By:Sgt. Craig Zentkovich< , NCOIC, Hunter Public Affairs Office 02/23/2004
Candidate Robert Gordon, a trainee with the Hunter Army Airfield Fire Department, decontaminates Capt. Martin Scarbrough, HFD, during hazardous materials training Feb. 10.
Two weeks of joint training between the Hunter Fire Department and various local authorities culminated with a field training exercise at Hunter Army Airfield Feb. 6.

The exercise, conducted at the recently built Ranger shoot house, included the raid of a suspected drug lab, medical evacuations and emergency care, suspect apprehension, and chemical decontamination.

Hunter Fire Department's focus during the exercise was individual, rapid decontamination. It included a hose down, detergent scrub and rinse.

"(For the exercise) we were called in at the last minute to respond to an explosion," said Jim Degnan, HFD assistant chief. "We were asked to provide emergency decontamination to patients prior to their transport to a medical facility."

The HFD portion came at the tail end of the exercise. The Chatham County Sheriff's Department special tactics team, with participation from representatives of the Marine Security Force and Pentagon Police Department, kicked off the training. Their mission was to execute a simultaneous two-floor raid on the suspected crystal meth lab of a known drug dealer.

During the raid there was an explosion at the lab, which resulted in multiple casualties and allowed the suspects to flee. A search and rescue mission was conducted in the building, with the casualties being evacuated and assessed outside.

"This was a chance for the students to get out of the classroom," said David Hall, Rescue Training Inc., president. The students he spoke of, numbering 12, are part of RTI's Tactical Medic Program - designed to train medics who directly support emergency response teams.

"The training allows the students to focus on patient care while operating in a real-world scenario - everybody has a chance to do their thing."

The casualties, who included authorities and civilians, exposed to caustic substances from the explosion were sent to the HFD decontamination station following their initial medical treatment.

While HFD decontaminated casualties, the CCPD team searched for and apprehended the suspects in the woods behind the shoot house.

Overall, the participants in the exercise were very pleased with the training.

"Due to (the G8 summit) coming here in June, it's advantageous to everyone - the Chatham County Sheriff's Department, and other local and federal agencies, to train together."

Degnan agreed, "(The HFD firefighters) learned some very valuable lessons in working together with local agencies. Ultimately, everyone involved in the joint training wins."

According to Degnan, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, proved that one agency couldn't handle catastrophes of that magnitude alone. "The more we can do to prepare (for future emergencies), the better off we will be."

©Frontline 2004