IRONWOOD - The Ironwood Public Safety Department has been chosen as the hazardous materials response team to cover the entire Upper Peninsula.
IPSD Director Andrew DiGiorgio said Monday eight of the 12 officers in his department are training to receive technician 1 certification to respond to hazardous responses and more training is planned.
"The IPSD has received well over $1 million in equipment to accomplish this task, including a response vehicle, air sampling and monitoring equipment, protective gear and decontamination equipment," DiGiorgio said.
Brandon Snyder, the IPSD fire officer, is the haz-mat team leader.
Funding is provided federally by the Region 8 (U.P.) Homeland Security Board.
Hazardous materials response previously had to come from at least eight hours away to reach Gogebic County.
With U.S. 2, M-28 and U.S. 41 being major highways with trucks crossing the U.P ., some of which are headed for Canada, "there is a high volume of hazardous materials that pass through our area at any given time," DiGiorgio said.
He added U.P. manufacturers and commercial businesses throughout the peninsula rely on many hazardous materials in their daily operations.
"To have a team based in Ironwood will greatly assist in providing for life safety, mitigation and environmental protection from hazardous materials," DiGiorgio said.
"We hope to get going by June 1," Snyder said. "Right now we could handle a small spill," he said.
Snyder said officers have already learned a great deal. Basically, they were presented with a new truck valued at around $300,000, and technical equipment of which they had little knowledge.
For example, there are numerous pieces of equipment for on-site testing of spill materials.
The Ironwood team will serve as a resource for all U.P. counties and will be a mutual aid asset for major disasters and incidents throughout the state and, potentially, the country.
The haz-mat team comes at no cost to the city, with all of the funding for equipment, training and operations from the Region 8 Homeland Security Board.
The training thus far has been to reach the hazardous material technician level.
There are also technician 2 and specialist levels that officers can achieve.
Officers have already spent two 20-hour weekends training to become members of the team, DiGiorgio said.
"Ultimately, the team will have satellite members scattered throughout the U.P. to be first-responding technicians who will advise the team of the nature and severity of the hazardous material accident," DiGiorgio said.
Classroom and hands-on training has been provided by the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.
Department officers participated in the most recent training session on Saturday at the IPSD.
Any questions about the team may be directed to Snyder at 906-932-1234, extension 13, or firstname.lastname@example.org.