The Gilbert Fire Department is joining other Arizona fire departments that will play key roles in the event of a major multicasualty incident.
The Town Council last week accepted $83,000 in grants from the national State Homeland Security Grant Program to purchase decontamination equipment and supplies.
It’s just the latest of $450,000 in grants the town has received in the past year as the fire department prepares for the role it would play in a major disaster: As a decontamination unit for Metropolitan Medical Response System, led by Mesa in the East Valley.
The town’s 150 firefighters will receive training to decontaminate victims in case of an emergency or major disaster involving biological or chemical toxins, Gilbert fire Chief Collin DeWitt said.
The town already has a 30-foot truck to act as a decontamination unit, and six firefighters have just completed the first round of training.
“We hope to be operational very soon,” said Sheri Gibbons, the town’s director of emergency management.
Cities throughout the Valley are stepping up to offer their services in the MMRS system, which was created before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but has dramatically expanded since.
The idea is to have a quick response to any bioterrorism or other kind of attack or explosion, DeWitt said.
Phoenix, Mesa and Glendale are taking leads in the Valley’s MMRS program and would play the lead role in evacuating at ground zero of any incident.
Gilbert trucks would decontaminate and provide emergency health care services to any victims as they leave the scene of any major event that involves toxins or dangerous gases — which include events such as plane crashes, train derailments or major fires, not just terrorist attacks, DeWitt said.
The Gilbert team would have the ability to shower off contaminants of civilian victims.
Gilbert opted to take the role after realizing no other city was covering that aspect of a rescue mission, he said.
“Our personnel are willing and capable,” DeWitt said. “We can go anywhere in the state.”