Hazmat, Rescue Team Provides Community Resource

Burlington Chemical Co.'s Hazardous Materials and Confined Space Rescue Team is an alliance between private industry and its community that provides a safety resource.

A small chemical manufacturer in Burlington, N.C., has proved that even small companies can do big things.

Burlington Chemical Co. has its Hazardous Materials and Confined Space Rescue Team, which is an alliance between private industry and its community that provides a safety resource. As the only confined-space rescue unit in the county, the Burlington team is a listed resource with the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"We've been recognized by several states for the unique program, and we're just now being recognized by the Chemical Manufacturers Association on the partnership we have with our community," said Kevin Dull, director of the emergency response team.

Burlington Chemical has had its Level III hazardous materials response and confined-space rescue team for a decade, Dull said. Originally intended for use only at the company's facility, which employs 150 workers, Burlington offered the unit as a resource to its community five years ago. The result was an agreement between the company and the local fire department that designated the company's unit as the emergency response organization for chemical emergencies in the county.

The company provides the free service to the community by absorbing all costs except of materials used, which are charged to the responsible party. Burlington is under contract with Graham, a nearby municipality, to respond to hazmat or confined-space rescue response.

"When it happens under contract, once our unit leaves our site, it becomes part of Graham Fire Department," Dull said. "So we can still provide the services to the community without Burlington Chemical taking on all the liability."

The company has trained and equipped its 15-member team of hazmat technicians and specialists to handle code blue emergencies, confined-space rescues and chemical emergencies. "We have quite a few specialists on the team because we are a chemical company," Dull said. "That's one advantage we have over most municipal fire departments and hazmat organizations."

To become a technician requires about 400 hours of training. All 15 members of the unit are regular employees of Burlington Chemical who volunteer their time. The company also sponsors a part-time program that includes emergency services personnel who are career firefighters.

With the recent addition of a 55-foot tractor-trailer to its rescue team, Burlington has responded to emergencies in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia and offered technical consultations in 12 states and Canada. "We also provide a lot of training for other hazmat teams, mainly in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia," Dull said.

The new unit includes a command post with computers, two-way radios and cellular technology.

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