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Specialist Response - Hazmat Incidents

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Hazmat incidents

Every day materials are being developed and produced for commercial and domestic markets, many of which are hazardous with the potential to cause harm to human and animal life as well as the wider environment.  In order to deal with this sort of incident Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) has a group of specially trained Hazardous Materials and Environmental Protection Officers (HMEPOs).  These officers attend a wide range of incidents involving hazardous materials (Hazmat) and environmentally damaging substances which can range from chemicals and milk, to fires involving fertilisers and cylinders.  All HMEPO’s are Flexible Duty System (FDS) Officers which ensures the county has Hazmat coverage 24 hours a day.

As part of the Pre Determined Attendance (PDA) responding to an incident, one Hazmat officer will attend the scene as an advisor, while a second will go to Fire Control.  The officer in Control will have at their disposal various information retrieval systems which include a nationally recognised chemical information and actions database (Chemdata), supported by the National Chemical Emergency Centre (NCEC).  Support from Detection Identification and Monitoring (DIM) is also available through HFRS as part of the national New Dimensions programme.

Photo:  Unknown substance leaking from a container in Southampton.

Hazmat Photo 1

Vehicles and equipment

The Pre Determined Attendance for a Hazmat incident is:

  • Two pumps

  • Special Equipment Unit (SEU)

  • DIM Vehicle

  • Operational Equipment Technician (OET)

  • FDS officer


All HFRS appliances carry two chemical protection suits on every pumping appliance, with SEUs carrying six gas tight chemical protective suits and a decontamination shower.  SEU station personnel at St Mary’s, Southsea, Basingstoke and Winchester also receive additional training in decontamination.

A group of 12 HMEPO’s also carry out the role of Detection Identification and Monitoring (DIM) Advisor and have received extra training in the operation of the DIM suite of equipment. The DIM vehicle attends Hazmat incidents for command and control and substance analysis if required.

Photo:  A Special Equipment Unit responding to an incident.

Hazmat Photo 2


Hazmat support kit

Each HMEPO carries a Hazmat Support Kit designed to be used at incidents involving unknown chemicals providing them with a basic testing capability.  This kit contains:

  • Spilfyter test strips – robust plastic strips which allow testing for pH, oxidising materials, hydrofluoric acid, organic liquids and chlorine.

  • pH paper booklet – enables the detection of pH in the range from 1 (strong acid) to 14 (strong base).

  • Starch iodine paper booklet – enables the detection of oxidising substances

  • Test guide – a guide on the use of test strips and the interpretation of data and other useful chemical information.

Photo:  Hazmat Support kit

Hazmat Photo 3



Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service attends on average 20 hazardous material incidents a year. Some recent incidents include:

  • January – a layby on the A30 near Blackwater – a dismantled RAF fighter being transported by lorry reportedly leaking jet fuel.

  • February – High Street, Ringwood – reports of a dry cleaner leaking solvent.

  • April – Newgate Lane, Fareham – unidentified white substance leaking from mail.

  • September – Bilton Road, Basingstoke – fire involving a trichloroethylene cleaning unit.

  • October – Centre Drive, Basingstoke – a 5 litre container of sodium hypochlorite began leaking and releasing fumes at a hotel.

  • November – Silchester Road, Little London – oil leaking from a domestic oil tank.

Photo:  Firefighter using decontamination shower after Fareham incident.

Hazmat Photo 4