Sussex County Hazardous Materials Program
The Sussex County HAZ-MAT program has been recognized by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as a Model Program for Hazardous Material Response. The Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services is authorized to provide the HAZ-MAT program under the County Environmental Health Act (CEHA), that certifies local health agencies to administer delegated environmental programs as part of the DEP's environmental control efforts.
Under the CEHA initiative, the Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services, formerly the Division of Health, has always been involved in specific HAZ-MAT spills, although contracted with Vernon Township for HAZ-MAT response services. The Sussex County Hazmat program was formed in late 1998, after County Administrators requested that HAZ-MAT services continued to be offered in the County shortly after Vernon's team disbanded.
The program is a collaborative effort between several Sussex County agencies including the Sussex County Sheriff's Office, the Sussex County Office of the Prosecutor, the Sussex County Division of Public Works, and the Sussex County Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services. The HAZ-MAT team currently consists of a seventeen members who must participate in training and drills several times a month, in such areas as decontamination, air-monitoring, communications, personal protective equipment, and National Incident Management/Incident Command (NIMS/ICS) course training.
All team members are required to receive training for HAZ-MAT Awareness, Operations, and Technician level response. HAZ-MAT Awareness level training teaches team members how to recognize a potential HAZ-MAT situation, while Operations level provides instruction in defensive measures. This level of training permits team members to take defensive actions during a HAZ-MAT response, such as how to stop the spread of a chemical spill or to assist in the isolation of an area until Technician level trained HAZ-MAT members arrive on scene. Technician level training focuses on recognizing and evaluating a HAZ-MAT incident, organizing and protecting the response team, identifying and utilizing response resources, employing basic control measures and decision-making skills to protect community members and the environment. There are currently eleven Technician level trained members on the Sussex County HAZ-MAT team.
The program is available to respond to environmental and public health emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, using state-of-the-art HAZ-MAT equipment including response vehicles, air monitoring instruments, personal protective equipment, and De-Con units. The team responds to various calls ranging from abandoned containers, fuel and unknown chemical spills, poisonous gas leaks, fires in structures that include chemical substances, and unknown chemical odors. The HAZ-MAT program responds to an average of at least one call per week, and with the assistance of the County Office of Emergency Management and the Sussex County Public Safety Training Academy, has matured into a valuable asset and tool for the municipalities of Sussex County.