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HFD mans decon, command unit

By Staff
New mobile post ready for emergencies
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
The Hartselle Fire and Rescue Department is now better prepared to serve Hartselle and surrounding communities in the event of natural disaster, radiation or chemical contamination, or any number of emergencies, thanks to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Chief Rickey Joe Smith unveiled a new mobile decontamination unit and command post to the city council last week.
Since Hartselle serves as a relocation center for Brown's Ferry Nuclear Plant emergencies, the 5 ft. by 10 ft., two-wheel trailer was donated by TVA.
"If Brown's Ferry had a radiation emergency and Decatur was evacuated, the Hartselle relocation center would serve approximately 8,000 to 15,000 Decatur residents," Smith said. "Cars would be brought here to wash away radiation contamination."
In case of such an emergency, Smith said the mobile unit is equipped with brushes, hoses, soap, and level B protective gear. Another important feature is the state-of-the-art communications hub.
"We can communicate from the unit with virtually anyone in the area," Smith said. "The communication hub will prove to be a great asset in a number of emergency situations."
The communication hub provides a direct link to the Morgan County Fire Department, East Lawrence Communications, Morgan County Commission, Decatur Police Department, Hartselle Fire Department, Hartselle Police Department, North Alabama Betworks, Morgan County Sheriff's Department, Hartselle Utilities, Hartselle Public Works, Decatur Fire Department, Cullman County Fire Department, Cullman County Sheriff's Department, Lawrence County 911, Huntsville weather, and local hospitals.
Smith said the unit has already been tested during a recent Morgan County training exercise and during a real emergency on Dec. 30, 2002.
"A serious traffic accident happened at night and a lengthy investigation took place," Smith said. "We were able to use the unit's moveable exterior spot lights to light up the scene really well for investigators."
Smith said the exterior spot lights were purchased with a $1,000 donation from Wal-Mart. Light bars, generator tray, materials and manpower were donated by Trucker's Warehouse.
"Since the unit is mobile and has its own generator, it's available for loan to other public safety agencies," Smith said. "For instance, police or search and rescue teams could use it as a command post during severe weather, lost persons, or bomb threat situations."
The unit is equipped with area maps, safety cones, dry erase boards, portable desk, tent, and a flashing green emergency light to identify the unit as a command post.
Hartselle Police Chief Ron Merkh said he believes the unit will prove to be a great asset to both departments and the community.
"The unit is a useful tool in that it has the ability to be taken to and left at a scene without tying up an emergency vehicle," Merkh said. "The unit has the ability to illuminate investigation scenes, protect police and firefighters from the elements, and serve as a central base of operations. Most importantly, it leaves fire and rescue trucks free to respond to other emergencies."