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Hazardous Materials Response Teams

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The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in accordance with Act 165, requires every county to have a minimum of one National Incident Management System (NIMS) Type II state-certified Hazardous Materials Response Team (HMRT) which is responsible for hazardous materials incident response in the county.

Counties may have an unlimited number of state-certified HMRTs assigned with hazardous materials incident response in the county; but must have a minimum of one Type II.

State-certified HMRTs are the only entities allowed to conduct hazardous materials incident response in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. State-certified HMRTs can only be officially dispatched to an incident by the county emergency management coordinator or their designated delegate.

Hazardous materials clean-up contractors are not considered response elements in Pennsylvania unless they are sponsored by one of the 67 counties in the commonwealth and have been certified by PEMA.

The HMRT is comprised of hazardous material experts who specialize in detecting, containing, and removing any release or potential release of hazardous substances in order to control or stabilize an incident.

NIMS Team Types

PEMA’s certification program requires HMRTs to recertify every four years. HMRTs must certify as one of the following NIMS Team Types:

  • NIMS Type I HMRT – The highest level of certification. HMRTs at this level may respond to and mitigate any incident in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; to include Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) hazardous materials incidents (in accordance with PEMA Directive D2019-02).
  • NIMS Type II HMRT – All counties are required to have a minimum of one NIMS Type II HMRT. At this level, this HMRTs may respond to and mitigate both known and unknown hazardous materials incidents; except those which have been determined to be WMD.
  • NIMS Type III HMRT – The lowest level of HMRT in Pennsylvania. NIMS Type III HMRTs may respond to known hazardous materials incidents only and may not mitigate those incidents which prevent a vapor or chemical hazard which require the highest levels of Personal Protective Ensembles and Respirator Protection (Level A).

Regional Hazardous Materials Response Teams

Counties may combine the capabilities of multiple state-certified HMRTs in order to achieve a higher level of regional capability. For example, two or more NIMS Type III HMRTs may be combined into a single NIMS Type II Regional HMRT.

In addition, two or more NIMS Type II HMRTs may be combined in order to achieve a single NIMS Type I Regional HMRT. This system allows regions and task force areas to use multiple regional assets to develop a capability to provide hazardous materials incident response; maximizing the utilization of regional resources for an enhanced response capability.

The HMRT Certification Program

PEMA’s HMRT certification program is extensive and is governed by Act 165 and PEMA Directive D2019-02, Hazardous Materials Response Team Certification/ Recertification Program Requirements (PDF). The certification program is conducted in accordance with FEMA’s NIMS Team Typing for Hazardous Materials Response Teams, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, and EPA/OSHA regulations.

The PEMA D2019-02, its attachments, and its appendices cover the requirements and standards of the PEMA HMRT Certification program. Visit the 2019 PEMA Directives page to access these documents.

*Appendix 2, the HMRT Application Package Preparation Guide, is a checklist for those who want to see all the steps required in the certification process.  Attachments 5-9 are the Assessment Inspection Checklists and Attachment 10 is the Evaluated Exercise checklist.

HMRT Training Requirements

PEMA requires all state-certified HMRT personnel to meet the training requirements outlined in the FEMA NIMS requirements for HMRTs and for Hazardous Materials Technicians.

In addition, PEMA requires all HMRT personnel to train in accordance with NFPA training standards for Hazardous Materials Awareness, Operations, Technician, Safety Officer, and Incident Commander.

PEMA Directive D2019-03 (PDF) and its attachments detail the provisions of the requirements of the HMRT Training Program. Visit the 2019 PEMA Directives page to access these documents.

Learn more about HMRT training requirements.