MILLBURN, NJ- A fireman’s job will never be the same after Sept. 11, 2001. The amount of training and preparation that is now required by fire departments in N.J. has increased immensely because of that horrific day.
Millburn Fire department Battalion Chief Edward Wade III said the events on Sept. 11 have put an emphasis on the way they do certain things now. Wade, who has been a fireman for almost 40 years, said he never imagined having to know how to deal with radiological or chemical incidents. But, there is always change and it helps people grow and become stronger, he said.
Ultimately, the philosophy of simply running into a building or home has changed, he said. Firemen need to take a step back, assess the situation and see if they are dealing with any chemicals, Wade said.
“Our instincts are to rush in and save the people as quickly as we can,” he said.
Since the attacks on 9/11, the fire department has increased its partnerships with surrounding communities and Homeland security. More importantly, they are part of the Urban Area Security Initiative, which was formed as a result of 9/11 and is made up of agencies working together to respond to a possible terrorist threat. It is in Morris, Union, Middlesex, Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties. Throughout the year, there are several UASI training courses.
“We all heard of radiological incidents, but when we were initially trained in radiological response and lockdown, I found that very interesting,” he said.
The Millburn Fire department is also the lead agency for decontamination for people who have been in a biological or chemical incident. Furthermore, they are part of a county team that does decontamination and they have one engine that contains those materials.
Although they received training from Homeland Security on how to use the new radiological monitoring equipment, it was a big adjustment at first, Wade said.
“You had never dealt with this equipment,” he said. “We never really had the need to.” However, all of his staff embraced the equipment and the training, he said.
The department is also now part of a foam initiative, which allows them to have enough fire foam available if there is an attack on an oil refinery or oil storage facility.
Looking ahead to the future, Wade feels the community and the fire department are in a safe and better place. Maintaining a balance between everyday things and training is vital, he said.