By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Three Oklahoma National Guard members approached the door of the Garfield County Memorial Speedway, with wands and equipment being used to search every crack and crevice.
In bulky, bright-orange and blue plastic suits, they ran a metal wand along the door before opening it and entering the cold building. A lab with flasks and chemicals is found, and the three begin collecting further information and sending it to the command center outside.
A sergeant with the Oklahoma National Guard explains to Enid Fire Department firefighters the actions taken by the guardsmen, and reasons for those actions.
Members of Enid Fire Department and Oklahoma National Guard’s 63rd Civil Support Team conducted hazardous materials training at Garfield County Fairgrounds Wednesday.
The training, which continues today, is offered through Department of Homeland Security, and allows the department to train with an experienced team, EFD Assistant Training Officer Justin McAlister said.
“We don’t get a lot of haz-mat calls,” McAlister said. “Hazardous materials is a high-risk, low-frequency matter.”
He said its important for his firefighters to see how the members of the 63rd Civil Support Team take their time in responding.
Firefighters are prone to rushing in to render aid, and often have trouble slowing down their actions, he said.
“They’re very meticulous. We can learn from how meticulous they are,” McAlister said. “If there is one thing to take away from this it’s that. This is why it’s so important for us to train with a department that has such hazardous materials capabilities.”
Enid Fire Department firefighters are trained in hazardous materials, but the department doesn’t have specialized units like larger departments, which are entirely dedicated to hazardous material incidents.
“All of our guys have to be specialized in all areas,” McAlister said. “That’s what makes this type of training so important to us.”
McAlister said Enid always has been a hub for hazardous material, whether transported by rail or train.
“It has certainly increased with the influx of industry we’ve had in the last year or so,” he said. “It becomes more important because of the increase in the volume of product we’ve got going through here.”
The 63rd’s team and fire department will take turns responding to scenarios set up inside the building that covers multiple areas of materials and situations. Throughout the scenario, firefighters are able to ask questions to members of the 63rd not participating.
“We get to watch them do it and learn from them. They do this day in and day out,” McAlister said. “Getting to work with guys with skill sets like these from the 63rd is priceless for us. The 63rd Civil Service Support Team, they are a priceless asset to the state of Oklahoma.”