Township firefighter OK’d to join county HazMat team

FLINT TWP. — A township on-call firefighter will be nominated to serve on the county HazMat team, under an agreement with the county, recently approved by the township board.

With approval requested by Fire Chief John Ringwelski, a Memorandum of Understanding agreement basically sets terms for liability and how hazardous materials expenses will be handled.

Each HazMat member remains an employee of the participating municipality, according to the document. One or more members of a municipality can be nominated to serve on the team.

“All Flint Township firefighters are covered under our insurance for liability and injury,’’ Ringwelski said in his request. “They are compensated for alarm response and training by our department. This is standard for members of the (HazMat) team.”

HazMat calls are treated like mutual-aid calls. So far, this year the HazMat team has responded to seven calls and to three calls in 2013, Ringwelski said.

“This team is a vital part of the emergency response in Genesee County,” he said. “Flint Township has used the Genesee County HazMat team on numerous occasions in the past few years and we will again.”

It is less expensive than contracting a private company, he added.

HazMat teams are called to respond in instances such as a truck leaking an unknown fluid down the street or if an unknown substance falls off a truck, Ringwelski said.

The county HazMat team is under the direction of the county sherif’s department consists of first responders – firefighters and law enforcement officers – from several participating municipalities.

The Memorandum of Understanding states that the County Controller will set up and manage a fund to be use for training, equipment, supplies and administration of the HazMat Team.

The agreement spells out the chain of command for the HazMat team consisting of a director who consults with the Genesee County Association of Fire Chiefs, the Genesee County Association of Police Chiefs and the HazMat Team. Collectively, they choose a team administrator and team leader but if there is a dispute, the director has the final say, according to the agreement.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration briefly suspended the county HazMat team in early 2013 after an investigations found inconsistencies in fitness testing and evaluations.

Township fire officials can nominate a candidate for the HazMat team but final acceptance is up to the HazMat director.

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