Several state and local agencies work to control hazmat situatio - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Several state and local agencies work to control hazmat situation

CAROLINA FOREST, SC (WMBF) - Local agencies jumped into action to control hazmat situation after a man discovered an unknown substance at the Carolina Forest Post Office.

The lock-down may have started at the Carolina Forest Post Office, but it also included the Conway Medical Center. First responders say the only way local agencies were able to work both scenes until federal help arrived was to share resources, and communicate.

As soon as the potential threat entered their jurisdiction, Conway Fire Rescue had a role in Thursday's hazmat situation. Fire Chief Philip Le Hendrick says this is what they train for, for situations when all hands need to be on deck. Hendrick says communication is crucial, and he worked with all of the agencies involved: The South Carolina National Guard, The Civil Support Team, SLED, the FBI, Horry County Fire Rescue, Myrtle Beach Police and Fire, and the Horry County Police Department, to make sure there was one clear and organized line of communication.

Hendrick says it was a quick decision to split the two scenes, and they had to make sure they had enough resources for both. Because there was a lot they didn't know, he explains they had to assume the worst. The main concern for the Conway Fire Department was the hospital.

"The hospital is probably one of the most high hazard occupancy we have in the city of Conway, so that was my focus, was you know: Are the other people in the hospital safe? How long is the hospital going to be down? Can we keep part of the hospital in service? A lot of things were going on," Hendrick said.

Hendrick says the main hazmat unit was at the post office, so they requested help from Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue. As soon as the call came in, Assistant Fire Chief Michael Norket with Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue says the team jumped into action.

"When we're looking at a hazmat call, we're looking at our personnel, we're looking at citizens, and we're also looking at the environment," Norket said.

The department's mobile testing lab is equipped to handle the unknown quickly and safely, starting with the hazmat suits.

"So they actually have a seal that goes around their face, they have built in gloves, so that nothing can get into the arms, same thing with our, with our feet," Norket explained.

Norket says one of the three major tools, is a rad-seeker, a radiation detection tool to let the hazmat team know if there is any underlying danger. The other two are the Razor-Rx Biologic Test, and the most common monitors.

"This is the true defender, and the first defender," Norket said. "What these do, is that they allow us to do preliminary test, on an unknown subject, or substance, and it has a background library of 50,000 elements. So when we shoot it, predominately it will give us some type of reading back to say we have this type of product to on the ground or in a container," he said as he showed how the system works.

Norket says their standard protocol allows them to collect the substance without interfering with any police investigation. he says this helps the team work with other agencies in times of serious need. The testing done Thursday, before federal agencies arrived to assist, let them know what exactly they were dealing with.

"If there's an unknown, we need to be able to go in there and provide that information from a test, to the hospital, or to that firefighter, or to that department, that allows them to provide aid to their employee or to their patient, that could just expedite their treatment by hours," he explained.

Norket says once they deem the incident over, they decontaminate all equipment and have it ready for the next call. As for the investigation, officials say the FBI and United States Postal Service are taking over, and if you know anything at all, call your local FBI office or police right away.

Related Link:

Man discharged after white powder found inside letter tested non-hazardous

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