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franklin county times

RFD awarded command system

By Staff
Jason Cannon, Franklin County Times
Last week, the Russellville Fire Department welcomed a new member to its unit. It's a small yellow box that could save the lives of both citizens and its fellow firefighters.
The department was awarded a HazMatID Command System, which can be used on the scene of chemical spills to identify hazardous chemicals in a matter of seconds.
"This is the same thing, the same technology, that the soldiers are using in Iraq to identify chemicals," said Russellville Fire Capt. Steve Thornton.
The command system, roughly the size of a tool box, has more than 4000 chemicals and contaminants stored in its database, which can be relayed to the operator either at the unit itself or at a laptop computer via a wireless connection.
"A Hazmat team can place samples on the machine, while the operator is in the truck or even outside the contamination zone, operating the computer," Thornton said.
The RFD has been training on the machine for the last several days, but Thornton spent nearly a week in Houston, Texas on training just to be able to bring the system home.
The Department of Homeland Security, who also handed the $80,000 piece of equipment over to the city at no cost once Thornton completed the four-day training session, funded the trip.
Thornton said his next mission would be to visit local industries to make sure the chemicals most commonly used locally are stored in the command system's database. If not, he can place a sample of the chemical under the infrared eye, which will give him the "ingredient" breakdown.
He can then store that information as whatever chemical it may be.
"The analysis will actually show you what it takes to make up that chemical and it's percentage," he said. "If it's got water in it, it will say, water, x-percent, and so on."
However, if the Hazmat Unit ever comes across a chemical unknown to the system and themselves, the Command System comes with a tech support of sorts.
"There's a number you can call and the system will send the chemical breakdown to a scientist, who will be able to tell you what it is," Thornton said. "It's like having a scientist on-call 24 hours a day."