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'Be prepared' is good motto



Published: Sun, April 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



In a day of evolving terrorism, in would be imprudent to take an it-can't-happen-here attitude.

Terrorists -- foreign or domestic -- can strike in our biggest cities, as we have seen in New York City and Washington, D.C. Or they can strike in the heartland. Think "Oklahoma City."

For that reason, a suggestion that the Mahoning County HazMat team should take on a new responsibility seems to make sense.

Years ago, chemical spills from highway accidents were handled as best as they could be by local fire departments. Often the response involved little more than putting enough water on the offending substance to dilute it on its way to the nearest stream or sewer.

Shift in thinking: As the chemicals traveling by rail or highway became more complex and shipments became more numerous, and as our sensitivity toward the damage those chemicals could do to the environment (or to the responding firefighters) in the event of a spill, the approach changed.

HazMat teams were trained and equipped to respond quickly and effectively to spills. In recent years, the Mahoning HazMat team has expanded its expertise to include various types of victim rescues.

Now, Walter Duzzny, executive director of the county Emergency Management Agency, is advocating formation of an urban search-and-rescue unit, which would be trained to locate people in buildings damaged by terrorism or natural disaster.

As many as 75 HazMat members and members of area fire departments would have to take additional training that -- it can only be hoped -- might never be needed. But if it is needed, their sacrifice of time and dedication to duty would be invaluable.

It's a plan well worth exploring.




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