San Bernardino County Fire Department
Hazardous Materials Division
Emergency Response Program
620 South "E" Street
San Bernardino, CA 92415-0153
Kristen Riegel, Supervising Hazmat Specialist
Business Phone: 909.386.8463
24 hour Release reporting: 1.800.33TOXIC or 909.386.8425
Hazardous Materials Response Team
Hazardous Materials personnel, in conjunction with City and County Firefighters,
respond to hazardous materials incidents, assist the County District Attorney in
the investigation of environmental crimes, and respond to illegal hazardous waste
disposal complaints. Releases of hazardous materials and/or waste occur in
San Bernardino County on a daily basis. Many of these releases are confined
to a small area, do not pose a public health threat, and are easily mitigated by
the responsible party.
Other times, hazardous materials incidents are more extensive, releasing hazardous
materials into surrounding areas, threatening groundwater, closing transportation
corridors, or contributing to fires or explosions. These require more extensive
definition, any hazardous material has the potential to become a threat if released
into the workplace or the environment. In San Bernardino County, hazardous
material incidents are handled by the San Bernardino County Interagency Response
Team, which is composed of Hazardous Materials Specialists from the County and participating
City Fire Agencies.
Hazardous material response requires highly trained personnel and expensive, specialized
equipment. Initial training for emergency responders can exceed 200 hours
of instruction in chemistry, hazard analysis, risk assessment, personal protection
and safety, and the use of monitoring equipment. Public Health and Environmental
concerns necessitate the presence of educated, trained environmental health professionals.
Personnel, training, and equipment costs are considerable. Specially outfitted
vehicles can range in cost from $50,000 to $250,000 or more. It is cost prohibitive
for most jurisdictions to establish their own comprehensive Hazardous Materials
1984 a regional Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Team was formed in San Bernardino
County. The program was started through a joint effort of the San Bernardino
County Fire Chiefs Association, The San Bernardino County Department of Environmental
Health Services (DEHS), and the County Communications Center. The original
team included six Environmental Health Specialists from DEHS and thirty firefighters
from 15 fire jurisdictions. The agreement called for vehicles, equipment and
training to be provided by DEHS and/or State Grants while the participating fire
jurisdictions would make in-kind contributions of personnel.
From 1984 to present the team has grown to over 100 personnel, all trained to the
State Fire Marshal approved Hazardous Material Specialist level, and nineteen equipped
response vehicles, three of which were provided in whole or in part by cities or
districts. The 12 Environmental Health Specialists on the Team are now employees
of the San Bernardino County Fire Department. The Cities of Ontario, Chino,
Montclair, Rancho Cucamonga, and Upland have formed a joint powers authority for
purposes of enhancing their response capability, but the JPA still participates
in the County Interagency Response Team.
The County is divided into three geographic regions for the purpose of deploying
Hazmat trained fire service personnel and vehicles and equipment in close proximity
to any incident. Dispatch of the San Bernardino County Interagency Hazardous
Materials Emergency Response Team is done through the County Communications Center.
Private citizens can call complaints into 1.800.33TOXIC. As with all other
emergencies, hazmat spills which may endanger life or property should be called
into 9-1-1 in addition to legally required notifications.
As part of the Fire Department's effort to prevent, prepare for, and respond to
emergencies of all types, the Emergency Response program gathers and distributes
facility inventory and information describing the properties and hazards of chemicals.
The following sources of facility information are used for emergency response and
California Accidental Release Prevention (CalARP) Program In
addition to developing accident prevention programs at specific facilities, this
CUPA program generates accident scenarios and other information that can be useful
in planning for releases of hazardous materials.
Business Emergency/Contingency Plan This CUPA program is designed
to gather the information regarding the hazardous materials stored at a facility
for purposes of planning and preparing for emergencies at fixed facilities in the
Hazardous materials response is a discipline that is mastered through information
management. The initial actions at an incident must be taken quickly but with
careful consideration of how the chemical will behave under the release conditions
which occur at the scene. Hazmat emergencies can involve a virtually infinite
number of chemicals and chemical combinations, and occur under a wide variety of
circumstances, from industrial facilities, to highway or railroad incidents, to
illegal activities such as clandestine drug laboratories or illegal dumping.
This assessment requires accurate identification, appropriate classification, an
adequate understanding of physical and chemical properties of the chemical, and
methods for containment or other mitigation. It also requires some prediction
of how these properties will manifest themselves in a real world, uncontrolled situation.
This is not a laboratory; it is a complex and dynamic system, filled with uncertainties.
While we cannot eliminate it, we reduce the level of uncertainty through the collective
knowledge and skill of the emergency response team. Safe and effective response
is a team effort in the broadest sense. The team includes the first responder,
the entry team, the information support personnel, and the industry which applies
its collective expertise to a successful incident outcome. The various
disciplines, duties, and functions are coordinated into a single effective response
through the Incident Command System.
There are several ways to identify a hazardous material:
The placard, a four-sided, diamond-shaped sign, will be displayed on the
trucks, railroad cars and large containers that are carrying hazardous materials.
Many placards are red or orange, while a few are white or green. The placard may
contain a four-digit identification number as well as a class or division number
that indicates whether the material is flammable, radioactive, explosive or poisonous.
Shipping papers will have the name of the substance, the classification (such
as flammable or explosive), and the four-digit identification number. With very
few exceptions, the shipping papers identifying hazardous materials are required
to be in the cab of a motor vehicle within the reach of the driver, in the possession
of a train crew member in the engine or the caboose, in a holder on the bridge of
a vessel or in the aircraft pilot's possession.
Labels can be found on containers and packages containing hazardous materials.
These may name the substance, the classification and the four-digit identification
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) are required to be developed
by manufacturers for those products which contain hazardous substances. The
MSDSs describe the hazardous components and the physical and chemical properties
in a substance or mixture. These are important sources of data for emergency
response to mixtures. There are also many sources of
chemical data online.
On-Scene Hazard Categorization. Physical and chemical properties
give clues to the emergency responders about the identity and hazards of the material
of concern. Such properties as specific gravity, solubility, vapor density,
chemical structure indicate whether a material is likely to sink or float in air
or water, whether it will dissolve, and how it will behave where it was spilled.
Testing for flashpoint, pH, and the presence of certain compounds indicates what
hazards the material may pose to responders and the public. Each situation
is different in terms of what kind of information is necessary to properly contain,
transport, and dispose of a hazardous waste. Some of this information can
be acquired through the use of field monitoring equipment, sampling, and field testing.
In some cases critical information about the identity and hazards of the substance
must be obtained through laboratory analysis.
A disaster can take many forms and can be caused by natural or technological hazards.
Natural disasters may include earthquakes, fires, storms, disease outbreaks, weather
conditions, or other events of natural origin. Technological disasters can be caused
by explosions, fires, or other releases of energy, radiation, chemicals, biological
agents, whether accidental or intentional. Technological disasters can also
be initiated by disruptions in communication and computer systems. These systems
are increasingly necessary for the conduct of personal, business, and government
transactions and on which society is increasingly dependent.
Whatever form a disaster takes, there are reasonable precautions that ordinary citizens,
businesses, and governments can take to prepare for damage or injury, disruption
of infrastructure and community services, and the psychological and social impacts
that a disaster has on a community. The Emergency Response and Enforcement
section prepares for natural and technological disasters through the practice provided
by daily emergency response as well as targeted planning and drilling for specific
hazards and situations. General County Disaster Planning is coordinated through
the County Fire Department Office of Emergency Services.
A Citizen Do In A Hazardous Materials Release?
Shelter in Place
Although the chance of a significant chemical release is small, the possible health
effects could be serious. Therefore, it is important for citizens to know
what to do. These accidental releases can occur quickly. For the first
few minutes of any emergency, citizens need to rely on their senses. If you
are outdoors and you smell a strong chemical odor, protect yourself by immediately
going inside the nearest building, home or vehicle. This is called Shelter
in Place. The two basic means of citizen protection are shelter-in-place and
Shelter in Place is usually the best way to protect yourself and your family in
the event of a chemical release. This works because the outside air does not
quickly enter inside buildings when they are closed or sealed. Shelter in
Place protects you from the most toxic vapors as the cloud passes. This is
- Go indoors immediately.
- Close doors and windows.
- Shut off heaters and air conditioners. Close fireplace dampers.
- Other precautions to consider: Cover nose and mouth with wet cloth, seal windows.
- Listen to local Emergency Radio Stations or local television station for further
- Wait for additional instructions. Following an "all clear" message,
air out your home.
Remember a shelter can be your home, a place of business, or an enclosed vehicle.
If you are outdoors without access to a shelter, move cross wind (in a direction
so the wind is blowing from your left to right or vice versa, but not into your
face or from behind). This offers the best advantage for getting out of the
path of the release.
Most chemical releases will last only a few minutes and staying inside should be
adequate for your protection. If the release is prolonged or there is a danger
of spreading fire or explosion, the police or fire department may order evacuation.
- Evacuate only at the direction of police or fire officers; or
- Follow directions of Emergency Radio Stations or your local television station.
- If evacuating, pack only what you need - clothes, medications,
baby supplies, portable radio, flashlight, checkbook, and credit cards. When making
decisions about your pets, keep in mind that some shelters may not be able to accommodate
- Evacuate only by streets once advised by the police or fire department, radio station
or local television station.