If you are looking out at Gloucester Harbor near Pancake Ground this morning you might see an exercise of the Maritime Incident Response Team (MIRT) and the Technical Support Unit (TSU) of the Department of Fire Services’ Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Program. The U.S. Coast Guard, the Gloucester Harbormaster, the District 6 “HazMat” team, and the Beverly, Gloucester, Marblehead, Newburyport, and Salisbury Fire Departments are participating in an exercise that simulates a response for a hazardous material on an off-shore vessel. But there’s no need for alarm.
This exercise allows team members to practice their skills responding to off-shore incidents that may involve hazardous materials and require inter-agency cooperation. One of the goals of the exercise is to establish and improve working relationships and response measures among these agencies. The exercise will include getting responders and equipment to a seaside vessel, vessel to vessel boarding, communications, and learning to maneuver on board a vessel while wearing hazardous materials protection. This will help them be ready to respond on both land and sea given that Massachusetts has 1,519 miles of coastline.
The Hazardous Material Emergency Response division of the Department of Fire Services has six regionally based “HazMat” teams that respond primarily to industrial and transportation incidents. The Maritime Incident Response Team was created in the wake of a 2010 incident when a fishing boat out of New Bedford hauled in WWI mustard gas canisters along with its catch seriously injuring one man.