County, chief firefighters to train at federal facility

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Dec 10, 2007 - Hopkins County has been on the receiving end of a number of grants to local fire departments to better equip them to deal with whatever emergency situation may crop up in the coming years.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap (left) is shown with Hopkins County firefighters (pictured from left) Brian Fairchild and Caleb Melton, and (not pictured) Herb Scott and Forrest Densmore, who will attend Department of Homeland Security’s Weapons of Mass Destruction training facility. Also pictured are Hopkins County fire chief Carl Nix (2nd from right) and firefighter Andy Endsley.

Hopkins County Fire Chief Carl Nix and at least four firefighters have been approved to attend the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency Weapons of Mass Destruction training facility, with the federal government picking up the tab.

�We have excellent public servants, from the sheriff�s office to the constables to our county firefighters and volunteer firefighters,� Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap said. �This is an excellent opportunity to give our personnel additional professional training in hazardous materials and homeland security through a grant."

All expenses are paid by the federal government from airfare to accommodations and training. The cost would probably be worth $3,000 to $3,500 per person, Millsap said.

"Two firefighters are going in December, two in January and we hope the commissioners will be able to go and take training in the coming year,” the judge said, saying training elected leaders in the tactics used by those in the trenches will help prepare the county to better respond to any type of emergency.

In November, Nix completed two homeland security training courses at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala. This month, Hopkins County firefighters Caleb Melton and Brian Fairchild will receive hands-on training at the CDP’s Chemical, Ordanance, Biologial and Radiological Training Facility in Anniston. Firefighters Herb Scott and Forest Densmore will follow in January, and the department’s fire investigator, Steve Caudle, may be attending a session in February.

Nix's training is designed for administrators and upper command personnel, while the firefighters' training will involve hazardous materials."It’s the only place they’ll be exposed to a live [hazardous material] agent during training," Nix said. "This is done so they can feel confident the protective equipment we’ve bought will work.”

It’s also important to communication, command and control, said Shannon Arledge, public information specialist for the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security’s Center for Domestic Prepareness and FEMA.

�It there�s an incidnt that requires all different level of communicators to talk, it�s important that all speak the same language," Arledge said, using the recent California fires as an example.

Firefighters from California and surrounding states, as well as others from Nevada and Texas, were able to “come together regardless of jurisdiction” and communicate effectively, Arledge said.

The training can be specific to the particular type of live agent yet varied enough to be utilized during any type of incident requiring communication among more than one agency, Aldredge noted.

The firefighters will train in using using chemical agents with the goal of enabling “responders to effectively prevent, respond to, and recover from real-world incidents involving acts of terrorism and other hazardous materials,” FEMA noted in a CDP new release.

Those attending the training are “specially selected from the nation’s 11 million emergency responders.” The scope of the training includes preparedness, deterrence and response.

The county’s NIMS compliance and intermediate level emergency management plan, and mitigation plan make the funding available, along with support from the commissioners court, according to Millsap.

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