SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that the State of Illinois is deploying 22 mass decontamination vehicles to communities throughout the state to ensure rapid response to hazardous materials or weapons of mass destruction incidents. The specially-outfitted decontamination trucks will allow local fire departments to provide quick mass decontamination of victims at the scene of a hazardous materials or weapons of mass destruction incident.
“These mass decontamination vehicles are part of our ongoing effort to make sure Illinois is well-prepared to respond quickly and effectively to any disaster, anywhere in the state,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Mutual aid between the fire services, law enforcement, emergency management and public health is critical to responding to disasters. These vehicles further strengthen our mutual aid plan, which is already recognized as the best in the nation.”
The Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF), which develops and implements the state’s homeland security strategy, worked with the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) on the decontamination vehicle initiative. MABAS, the fire services mutual aid organization, facilitated the purchase, equipping and deployment of the 16 vehicles that have already been received, and will handle delivery of the remaining six vehicles this year.
MABAS also determined the criteria for placement of the vehicles, including requiring that the recipient have an established hazardous materials response team to manage the equipment and that no decontamination already is located in the area. Proximity to high population centers and universities were also considered when determining where to place the vehicles.
Each vehicle contains an incident coordination area and decontamination capabilities both inside and outside the vehicle. The inside decontamination area includes six showerheads, while there are four shower stations outside of the vehicle in a semi-enclosed awning area. For non-ambulatory patients, decontamination can be performed inside or outside the vehicle with an automated patient lift system and over/under roller systems for individuals on stretchers.
The vehicles are equipped with automated water pressure controls, electronically-controlled water temperature, scene lighting, exterior modesty barriers, an onboard generator, decontamination solution dispensing system and a 100 gallon water storage tank. Water for the decontamination is supplied by fire engines or hydrants. Each vehicle is equipped with enough supplies to decontaminate 200 individuals.
Each decontamination vehicle costs approximately $251,000, including equipment and supplies. The state will spend more than $5.5 million for the 22 vehicles it is purchasing. Funding for the vehicles came from homeland security grants the state receives from the federal government.
In addition, Cook County is purchasing three decontamination vehicles with funding they received through the federal Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant.
“As with other response assets we’ve positioned throughout the state, such as mobile command vehicles and Illinois Transportable Emergency Communications Systems, these mass decontamination vehicles can be dispatched anywhere in the state to support response efforts during a major disaster,” said Andrew Velasquez III, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA).
“The decontamination vehicle is a resource our department and MABAS Division would not have been able to afford to purchase on our own,” said Deputy Chief Bruce Harrison of the DeKalb Fire Department (MABAS Division 9). “It’s a resource that we’ve found has many applications beyond mass decontamination. During the flooding in DeKalb County in late August, MABAS Division 8 used the vehicle as a shower facility for displaced flood victims for seven days.”
To date, decontamination vehicles have been delivered to the following fire departments:
Six additional decontamination vehicles are expected to be delivered later this year to the following areas of the state: Quincy, Macomb, Freeport, Southwestern Illinois/Edwardsville, Naperville and Pekin.