TAVARES — When an emergency occurs and noxious gases permeate the air, Lake County Fire Rescue’s Special Operations Response Team (SORT) is at the ready to respond and rescue citizens from danger. But what happens when the rescuers also need rescuing?
That’s where the new Hazmat Medic Program comes in, aimed at ensuring firefighters are safely treated for toxic exposures at hazardous incidents, if and when necessary.
“It is reassuring to know if our team members have a breach in their HAZMAT suits and are exposed to hazardous materials, the proper treatment can start at the scene and continue all the way to the hospital,” said Battalion Chief Robert Fickett, SORT Chief with Lake County Fire Rescue.
The new specialized equipment and medications are now available on all three of the county’s SORT units: Squad 20 in the north, Squad 76 in the center, and Squad 90 in the south. Firefighters will be able to treat patients – including firefighters who are most susceptible – for exposure to gas irritants, asphyxiants, corrosive gases, hydrocarbons, cholinergic, cyanide and even weapons of mass destruction. With the HAZMAT Medic Program, the patient can begin receiving life-saving treatment on the site before being transported to the nearest hospital.
“Lake County’s Type II HAZMAT Team is the first of its kind in the state to offer this level of advanced medical capability,” said Lake County Fire Rescue Chief Jim Dickerson. “A program such as this is an asset to the county and is deployable throughout the region.”
The new equipment was funded through the state’s Hazard Mitigation Program.
The career firefighters of Lake County Fire Rescue protect county residents and visitors in an area covering approximately 1,200 square miles, with nearly 70,000 residences and up to 2,000 commercial properties. For up-to-date news on Lake County Fire Rescue, visit www.facebook.com/LakeCountyFireRescue, or www.twitter.com/lakefirePIO.