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Hazswat Changed?: Combining Hazmat and SWAT Training for Tactical Operations

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 36 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2009 Pages: 20,22,25
Michelle Perin
Date Published
May 2009
23 pages
This article discusses issues involved in preparing SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams to address hostagetakers and barricaded suspects who may be armed with or in the vicinity of hazardous materials (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive).
Because SWAT teams are often involved in situations immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH), Federal agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), have established standards to which emergency responders must adhere. These standards not only apply to fire departments and hazardous materials (hazmat) teams, but also to SWAT teams. When SWAT teams respond to emergencies that involve hazardous materials, they are required to follow established guidelines for reducing the chance of “an uncontrolled release of the hazardous substance.” Thus, when SWAT teams respond to a hazardous incident, their primary mission is to secure the human threat and prevent a release of any hazardous material. Hazardous material response training is a must for SWAT teams. This is often covered by grant funding. Beyond initial training, agencies should establish an appropriate program that keeps first responders safe through ongoing training and the purchase of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). For SWAT teams, this means ensuring the design and purchase of hazmat PPE suited to tactical operations against a human threat. SWAT teams should work with local or regional fire department hazardous materials teams. They are excellent resources for providing expertise, technical resources, monitoring/detection during a suspected or actual event, and logistical support. Protocols should also be established for each type of potential incident that involves both a human and hazardous-materials threat. The article includes a description of how the Broward County Sheriff’s Office has dealt with these issues.