We have actively developed a capable HAZMAT Paramedic Support Team and certified selected staff at the NFPA 472 and 473 HazMat Operations Level. Following an initial seven days of Operations training, and supplied with protective suits and respirators or SCBA, these team members may be called upon to support HazMat technicians or a CBRNE team during any general Hazardous Materials incident which requires decontamination. At present, sixteen staff (including 8 ERT Paramedics) hold this qualification. Following the Operations training, additional medical training is provided, and staff can then be armed with medical protocols and standing orders unique to a HAZMAT situation.
Unlike a specialized CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives) team which may work in the "Hot" zone following a large criminal or terrorist incident, a HAZMAT team is a general purpose support team which could support "Warm" zone activities. Relative to the risks in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties , a full CBRNE team is not indicated, although these teams do exist in Canada 's larger urban centers, such as Ottawa and Toronto . But the presence of Highway 401, rail lines, generating stations, industrial and chemical plants, and the largest Military Air Transport Base in Canada were cited as factors that did justify a general EMS response capability to a Hazardous Materials incident to be able to safely confine the incident, protect local emergency responders, and minimize the threat of contamination posed to the public and our health care facilities until specialized assistance arrives from a larger center. To achieve this, the service also has an equipped trailer holding a wide variety of specialized equipment, including a decontamination tent system, and all area ambulances have on-board lap-top computers with a variety of hazardous materials information databases.
Hastings-Quinte EMS is one of only two Ambulance services in Canada known to have this general HAZMAT ability, although we have embarked on a regional partnership initiative to extend this training to certain Paramedics in bordering County-run services as well. It is a milestone accomplishment for the service and follows with our mission statement of achieving and delivering the highest medical standards to the citizens we serve.
"Primus Inire - Ultimus Exire" (First to Enter - Last to Leave). Acknowledging the potential risk to police officers and citizens that may arise from unexpected serious criminal activity, we have actively partnered with the Emergency Response Team of the Bellville Police Service to facilitate a Paramedic support capability during high-risk police tactical incidents. We also periodically work cooperatively with the OPP Tactics and Rescue Unit (TRU Team) and the Explosives Disposal Unit for those events that may occur in areas of the county that are serviced by Provincial Police and when OPP Tactical Medics may not be immediately available.
These well-protected and specially equipped Paramedics with special training are able to more rapidly access patients than waiting for the event to be fully resolved. It is important to note that these Paramedics are not Police Officers, nor are they armed, but that they do work in very close proximity to deployed officers when needed. Training ranges from providing emergency care following dynamic entries, to the potential for dealing with the medical risks associated with responding to a clandestine drug lab, to field medical care and remote access. All ERT Paramedics also train as members of the HAZMAT Support Team.
Adding to the credibility and capability of the Team, the designated senior staff assigned to oversee that the unit has completed an additional week of training in Tactical and Critical Incident Command; the same course required of Police ERT Team Leaders and Incident Commanders, and recognized by the Ontario Police College.
- The H-Q EMS Emergency Response Team (Tactical Support) was created at a time when only 5 other such teams existed across all of Canada. It is now becoming a more common practice, recommended as such by numerous recognized authorities.
- H-Q EMS Tactical Paramedics deploy in support - on average - 30 times per year.
- The HAZMAT Support Team has deployed small elements in support of several contaminated patient incidents, and supports HAZMAT Paramedic training in other neighboring Counties.
- Since the late summer of 2007, owing in part to having an established Tactical medical support capability, H-Q EMS Tactical Paramedics - along with similarly trained Tactical Paramedics from Toronto, York, Halton, Peel Region and the OPP - have been requested for assistance and deployment in medical support of some of Canada's largest high-risk tactical joint law enforcement operations : Summer 2007 (Project Ecstasy, Toronto); Summer 2008 (Project Fortitude, Bay of Quinte Area); Spring 2009 (Project Fusion, Toronto).
- All H-Q EMS Special units are committed to providing the highest standards of prehospital medical care possible in the most austere and high risk circumstances. We believe that this increases the liklihood of a safe outcome for any affected citizens or members of other emergency and protective services in these situations. We are proud to have this capability available locally, as well as having received recognition for achieving a level of emergency service excellence that has led to periodic deployment in support of larger regional operations.