Public safety officials from Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University are taking part in a HAZMAT Technician Training class aimed at helping agencies establish a new region-wide HAZMAT response team.
"We're starting to get more people and more businesses and chemicals, are coming into the area, including hazardous materials, so we have to work as a team to handle all of the incidents that come through the 911 system," says Kevin Carter, an Albemarle County Firefighter.
Historically the Charlottesville-Albemarle County area has relied on HAZMAT response teams from the Shenandoah Valley and Henreico areas to deal with local spills, but officials say with the HAZMAT training they're receiving now, they will be able to deal with most spills themselves.
"If we're uncertain as to a spill, we'll have the ability to actually go in and sample for a specific gas or chemical that we think might be in there," says Capt. Michael Rogers of the Charlottesville Fire Department.
Officials say the extensive training will help them work wonders for the community, but agree that teamwork among the local fire, police and medical departments is what will ultimately guarantee their success.
"It's very vital that we work together with the Fire Department and other agencies to be able to benefit from everybody's expertise to be able to come up with an effective game plan," says Mel Bishop of the Charlottesville Police Department.
By upgrading the response level, public safety officials feel they will be able to be more proactive and offensive in their field operations.