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Exercise gives Saint John Firefighers access to state of the art tools

07-May-2010

A member of the fire department's hazmat team exits the incident siteRecognizing the critical role that fire departments play in responding to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) emergencies, the Saint John Fire Department is taking part in a pilot project for a tool to help emergency responders investigate these incidents.
The PROBE project provides the responder tools for aiding the identification and handling of CBRNE in criminal investigations. It also deploys its own wireless network allowing communications on scene (and beyond) in the absence of existing infrastructure.
In short, this is a tool to help investigate a chemical spill, radioactive incident or biological attack that doesn’t depend on phone lines, radios or cell phone towers to maintain contact. It works as well in urban areas as it does in rural areas.
“We heard about the project at a conference last year. It’s a great opportunity to practice our skills, to learn about a new technology and to expand our knowledge and our capabilities to handle CBRNE and hazardous materials incidents,” explains District Chief Lew MacDonald of the Saint John Fire Department. “Saint John has been recognized as a leader in Hazardous Materials, with responsibilities to interface with the Canadian Border Services in response to U.S./Canadian Border incidents, as well as Hazmat incidents at the Port of Saint John.”
The Saint John Fire Department’s team also responds to Hazmat incidents at industrial partner sites. A provincial government agreement is in place that makes the Saint John Fire Department the primary Regional Hazmat responders to incidents occurring within the geographical area from the St. Stephen Border, to the Confederation Bridge (PEI) and as far north on Highway 7 to Petersville Hill. 
PROBE is a CRTI (CBRNE Research and Technology Initiative) project funded by Defence R&D Canada (DRDC) – Centre for Security Science (CSS), with AMITA Corporation as the technical lead. AMITA is a software solutions company focused on emergency management, based in Ottawa. The project, led federally by the RCMP’s Canadian Bomb Data Centre, is a platform to bring together tools used by police, fire, Hazmat and emergency medical services to create the best possible record and sharing of information during a critical response.
The PROBE exercise is the final event of Saint John’s Emergency Preparedness Week activities.