By Rick Rouan
BOARDMAN — Dispatches to the Mahoning County Emergency Management Haz-Mat Response Team will go through Boardman Township’s dispatch center as soon as the end of the month.
The team’s deputy chief, Silverio Caggiano, and fire chief, James Dorman, were at the dispatch center Wednesday working out logistical hurdles.
Dispatches should begin flowing through the township by the end of the month, they said. “It’s very doable,” Dorman said.
In the past, Haz-Mat dispatches have gone through Rural Metro Ambulance, but the company told the response team that it would have to charge from now on because of its own costs, Dorman said.
But the response team has an annual budget of $12,000 and recently had to replace its 25-year-old response vehicle, Caggiano said, and it cannot afford to pay.
Dorman, who is chairman of the response team’s policy board and Boardman’s fire chief, looked close to home when searching for a new dispatch home.
The dispatch center, which is part of the police department, decided that it could “absorb communications at no cost,” Dorman said.
Now, the team needs only to clear a few mechanical hurdles and train dispatchers, he said. “It’s just a matter of them knowing what questions to ask,” he said.
The response team, which is composed of about 20 volunteers, fields between 15 and 25 calls each year, which could be anything from a methamphetamine laboratory to a gasoline spill, Caggiano said.
Since the attacks Sept. 11, 2001, Caggiano said that Haz-Mat equipment requirements have doubled, but the Mahoning County team has been using the same modified panel truck since 1985.
Without enough room to hold all of the team’s equipment, volunteers found themselves pulling equipment out of the truck and stuffing other tools in during an emergency.
The old truck also ran on regular gasoline and had electrical problems, Caggiano said, leaving it “underpowered and overstuffed.”
The new truck runs on diesel and will be equipped to handle data transmission from the dispatch center, he said.
“It was a necessary move where we were going to have to move to something that can handle emerging technology,” Caggiano said.