Both vehicles increase FES’s ability to respond to major accidents without requiring external emergency services, making Belvoir’s unit more self sufficient, according to Russell Miller, FES deputy fire chief.
The hazmat truck’s primary responsibility is to respond to and protect the community from spills and leaks of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear nature. The truck, which is fully operational, can also respond to weapons of mass destruction.
The heavy rescue vehicle responds to various incidents such as vehicle extraction, stabilization, rope rescue and swift water rescue.
Firefighters must undergo about a year of training before the heavy rescue vehicle becomes operational.
Miller said the hazmat truck replaces an older truck that was no longer capable of protecting post.
The vehicle seats five firefighters and is outfitted with decontamination equipment, hazmat suits, foreign material detection meters and a research lab with a chemical database and weather station.
The truck has internet and satellite capabilities, a power generator, photo capturing, printing capability and a light tower.
"It’s a research center," said Kevin Roberson, FES captain.
Roberson said firefighters use the truck’s technology to test and learn about substances encountered during incidents.
The instant information allows firefighters to understand what protective clothing to wear and how to best treat various chemicals.
Roberson said FES has used the vehicle for minor fuel spills and hydraulic leaks since starting operation.
Miller said Fort Belvoir is better prepared for handling major incidents internally as the hazmat truck makes the installation less dependent on Fairfax County emergency services’ assistance.
According to Miller, Belvoir would need help from Fairfax County for responding to accidents such as natural disasters.
FES learned however, the extent of some accidents make it difficult for Fairfax County to provide assistance in their jurisdiction, let alone Belvoir.
Miller said the new vehicle makes Belvoir better equipped for handling situations such as 5.8-magnitude earthquake that hit most of the East Coast in August 2011.
"When we had that earthquake, you couldn’t count on anyone else for help," Miller said. "Now we can rely on our own equipment."
While the hazmat helps the installation with chemical safety, the heavy rescue truck makes FES more self sufficient in non-hazardous emergency responses.
The vehicle is equipped with tools such as12, 000 pound and 9,000 pound winches, numerous saws, concrete breakers and Paratech struts for stabilizing walls and vehicles.
Roberson said the truck has all the equipment FES needs for incident responses and will allow firefighters to perform duties more effectively.
"We will be able to use the tools and equipment when need them to respond to incidents on post," Roberson said.
The heavy rescue truck, like the hazmat truck, allows FES to depend less on Fairfax County for assistance.
"It’s better suited for our needs," Miller said. "We now have greater capability."