Allegheny County Pennsylvania Green Team Specialized Intervention Team (SIT)
Prologue: When I received an email from Jim Eaborn Deputy Chief of Allegheny County Hazmat about the Hazmat SIT Team, I have to admit I was skeptical. Only a couple of instances where entry personnel got into trouble and required assistance in the Hot Zone came to mind. With all of the precautions taken when preparing for entry, history has shown it has been a relatively safe operation. However, he invited me to a full drill to show me how the team operates and I am glad I accepted. This team is amazing. Procedures have been well thought out and this team is well prepared and equipped to enter a Hot Zone to make a rescue of downed hazmat personnel. My impression was so far beyond what I expected, I would recommend that anyone who has the chance should journey to Pittsburg, PA and visit the Allegheny County Hazmat Green Team.
Allegheny County is located in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania and has an approximate population of 1,214,040 in 2020 distributed over 725 miles2. Pittsburg is the largest city in Allegheny County and has a population of over 294,860 in 2020. Hazardous materials response in Allegheny County including the City of Pittsburg is provided by the Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services Hazmat Team. In addition to hazmat the Department of Emergency Services also provides 911 Communications and Fire Marshal services and operates the county fire training academy. There are over 300 independent volunteer fire companies in the county that provide fire and rescue service to 130 municipalities. Emergency medical services (EMS) response is provided by an independent paid EMS organization which also provides EMS support for the hazardous materials teams. The only career for fire department in the county other than the City of Pittsburg is at the international airport.
Hazmat Team History
The Allegheny County Hazardous Materials Team was formed on June 28, 1988, by the Allegheny County Commissioners. The idea for the formation of a team resulted from training provided by Ron Gore (Jacksonville Florida Fire Department) and owner of Safety Systems, Inc., who presented some of the first hazmat classes in Allegheny County. The Allegheny County Hazardous Materials Team is composed of five teams staffed totally by volunteers in the county and by career personnel in the City of Pittsburg. The Allegheny County Green Specialized Intervention Team services the entire Southern area of the county; the Red Team, East Boroughs Emergency Services Association serves the Eastern areas of the county; the Blue Team, Northeast Allegheny Response Association serves the Northeast and Northwest areas of the county; the Silver Team, North Hills Response Team serves 25 municipalities in Northeastern Central just north of the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers; and the Yellow Team serves the City of Pittsburg.
Each of the teams is somewhat autonomous administrative but all provide assistance throughout the county when needed. Support and funding is provided by the county. When a hazmat incident occurs in the county, the four county teams would be deployed first and the Pittsburg Team would be deployed if they were not on a call in the city. All five Hazardous Materials Teams are certified by Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Certified teams must meet certain standard criteria set forth by the state for certification. Certification requirements include having an Emergency Response Plan, personal protective equipment (PPE) Program, and Medical Surveillance Program.
Training requirements for team members: Team Structure and Response, Dispatch and Response, Incident Command System Structure and procurement of approved equipment on the Team Equipment List. There is also a periodic re-certification process. Allegheny County Police provide a bomb squad for the county and technicians train with the hazmat team. The five county hazmat teams receive support from the Department of Emergency Services under the direction of Chief Matt Brown, the County Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator. All of the teams are dispatched by the County 911 Center.