On January 7, the Health Hazardous Material Division (HHMD) opened their doors for the first time to the public, providing insight to guests into one of the largest hazardous materials programs in California. Hazardous Material Specialist (HMS) Supervisor Ken Smith spearheaded this event, along with HMS Supervisor Mario Tresierras, to improve awareness and educate the community about how to keep their home and community safe.
Under the direction of Division Chief Bill Jones, HHMD protects the health of the public and environment throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as the City of Santa Monica, from accidental release and improper handling, storage, transportation and disposal of hazardous materials or waste. HHMD is part of the Fire Department’s Prevention Bureau and is comprised of several sections, which include Inspection, Special Operations, Emergency Operations and Administration/Planning.
Hazardous Materials Specialist Deirdre Williams led guests through an exploration of the Division’s site, showcasing the Emergency Response Coordinator who dispatches emergency calls to the field. Guests were able to peruse the lab where various materials are researched and tested. Each section provided a booth to display research, completed projects and new technologies used in the field.
Recognized as an outstanding example of leadership, coordination, partnership and outreach, HHMD was presented with the Secretary’s Award for Environmental Achievement by the State of California Environment Protection Agency on February 4, 2014. An honorable feat due to this award historically only awarded to individuals, the entire HHMD team was acknowledged for showcasing their leadership not only within the Fire Department but also with other agencies.
“HHMD regulates and monitor approximately 25,000 cites that require inspection by their 40 inspectors,”explained Karen Codding, assistant chief of the Special Operations Section. “In the Inspection Section, inspectors permit and inspect facilities that handle hazardous materials and generate waste. Using their education, training, and experience in chemistry, manufacturing processes and industrial hygiene, inspectors assess and ensure compliance with use, storage, transportation and disposal of hazardous waste.”
The Special Service Section is composed of three units. The Cal-ARP Unit administer the California Accidental Release Program to ensure that risk management plans reduce the likelihood of accidental release of hazardous substances from businesses such as oil refineries, chemical plants and refrigeration facilities. The Site Mitigation Unit reviews and approves assessment and mitigation work plan for sites contaminated with hazardous substances. This team oversees and ensures the work of private environment consultants on such finished products as the Citadel Outlets located in Commerce, which was once a tire and rubber plant. As a leading member of the Los Angeles City, County and federal environmental strike forces, the Investigation Unit investigates criminal complaints, performs criminal surveillance, collects and evaluates evidence, including interviews with informants, and preparing, serving and executing search warrants.
The Emergency Operations Section provides 24- hour response to hazardous material incidents throughout the County, as well as preparing for possible events that involve chemical, biological and radioactive materials. The Administration/Planning Section, along with its two units (Technical Services Unit and Data Operations Unit), provide administrative, technical, educational and operational support for all HHMD sections.
When asked about the reason of this event Jones stated, “People know what lifeguards do; they know what firefighters do. They should know what HHMD does. It is important for the public to know what we do and the significance it has to their health and safety.”