KFD will be able to quickly identify hazardous materials

Juanita Cebulak

The Kent Fire Department is waiting on the delivery of new equipment that will identify hazardous materials and gases such as anthrax and carbon monoxide.

The two pieces of equipment, worth $38,000, will come as a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It should arrive in March or April.

Lt. Craig Peeps said that the kit contains a hand-held laser and a gas monitor.

“The gas monitor can detect four types of gases,” Peeps said. “They are oxygen levels, carbon monoxide, natural gas and sewer gas.”

The gas monitor pulls in an air sample and shoots a light beam at it, Peeps said. How much light is absorbed or reflected determines what the chemical is.

The other piece of equipment, the FirstDefender, weighs four pounds and is capable of identifying chemical weapons, explosives, toxic chemicals, white powders, narcotics, contraband and forensics in the air, through bags and through bottles, according to its manufacturer’s Web site.

“The machine reads the reflections of light and compares it to information contained in its memory banks,” Peeps said. “It then looks for a match to the substance. It will help with anthrax calls.”

Before the department had such devices, firefighters had to collect samples and then have them analyzed. The machine is 90 to 95 percent accurate, Peeps said.

“We check a lot of substances dumped in streams,” Peeps said. “The new detector will ignore water to determine the substance in it.”

There is a past incident, in which the FirstDefender would have helped, that Peeps recalled. A green solution and a purple solution showed up in a creek near Cotton Corners in Ravenna. The green solution turned out to be a simple cleaning product used by a car dealership. The purple one turned out to be a dangerous metal substance thrown off by an aircraft manufacturer.

Peeps said the equipment will work with other equipment the fire department already has.

“The detector is very simple to use, yet it is very technologically advanced,” Lt. David Moore said.

Contact public affairs reporter Juanita Cebulak at [email protected].