Southern IL fire crews train for hazmat situations - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Southern IL fire crews train for hazmat situations

MCLEANSBORO, IL (KFVS) - Dozens of Illinois firefighters got suited up in recent weeks to train on how to deal with hazardous materials.

When many think of  a 'hazmat suit' images from movies and television shows seem to come to mind, but instructors in McLeansboro say the need can be much more common than that.

"It can happen anywhere, and it can happen anytime." said course instructor Mike Mavrogeorge, who is also a St. Louis emergency responder. "So we want them to be prepared to deal with these types of incidents."

Fire crews say when a potential hazmat situation is declared, they often don't even know what they're dealing with when they first show up.

"It could be as simple as a an old mace bottle that bursts in someone's purse on a hot day," Mavrogeorge said, "All of the sudden we ave a huge crowd of people showing symptoms, but no one knows why, or where it was coming from."

"We have to prepare for the worst and everything in-between" said McLeansboro fire chief Jim Morris.

"This course teaches firefighters and first responders how to respond defensively to a release of hazmats or criminal terrorism or even incidents involving weapons of mass-destruction," he said.

All full-time fire departments in Illinois are now required to train with 'level-B splash protection suits, which are designed for secondary operations in hazmat situations, but only certain teams including ones in Mt. Vernon and Marion Illinois are equipped to handle more dangerous situations.

"We deal with an array of situations," Morris said, "And, we have got to be prepared for any and all."

Volunteer firefighters are not required to go through the training, but are encouraged to do so.

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