Alabama all-volunteer hazmat crew conducts first 2013 drills

Members of the Calhoun County Hazardous Materials Team began the new year by training to keep area residents safe from a possible bioterror attack or chemical spill.

The all-volunteer team met on the first Saturday morning of 2013 at the county's Emergency Management headquarters in Jacksonville, Alabama, to discuss new procedures and conduct a series of drills, according to

"Work safer, work smarter," Fran Byrd, a founding member of the team and its first commander, said, reports.

The group repeatedly practices setting up and then taking down a decontamination tent that includes a propane-powered heater and its own water supply. The tent operates like an assembly-line shower to clean potentially hazardous agents off those who might have been exposed.

"It's like a car wash for people," team commander Bob Heintzelman said, reports.

Heintzelman also serves as an instructor at the Center for Domestic Preparedness and has years of experience working with hazardous materials. He said that Calhoun County is the only county in Alabama that has an unfunded all-volunteer response team. While the team does occasionally receive grant money, its only real source of income comes in the form of reimbursements from those responsible for hazardous materials spills.