After 13 years of leading the OSFM Haz-Mat division, which aims to enhance the safety of Kansans by making trained, equipped hazardous materials teams available throughout the state, division chief Dan Thompson has announced his retirement this September.
Prior to joining the OSFM, Dan served 30 years with the Ottumwa, Iowa Fire Department. He held such positions as Firefighter, Training Officer, and Chief of the Department. During his nine year tenure as Chief he also served as the County Emergency Management Coordinator.
Dan holds an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He is also a graduate of the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program and was certified as a Hazardous Materials Technician, Instructor II, and Inspector I. He also is a graduate of the Kansas Certified Public Manager Program.
Dan and his wife Joyce have been married for 46 years. They have one son, Brian, who is a CPA. Brian’s wife, Dana, is a school teacher. Dan and Joyce are also proud grandparents of three grandchildren.
How are the Haz-Mat response teams set up and organized across Kansas, and what are their purpose?
There are 11 teams placed in strategically located fire departments: Colby, Salina, Manhattan, Topeka, Overland Park, Seward County, Ford County, Sedgwick County, Emporia, Winfield, and Coffeyville. These teams support local first responders in hazardous materials incidents, accidents, weapons of mass destruction and acts of terrorism.
Our Haz-Mat division not only provides centralized coordination of Haz-Mat response teams across the state, but provides specialized response equipment and training for the team members.
These 11 teams are a resource for any fire department that has a hazardous materials / Weapons of Mass Destruction incident in their jurisdiction and do not have the equipment or training to handle the situation.
There is no charge to the fire department that requests the assistance of the regional Haz-Mat team. Our program will cost-recover expenses from the party responsible for the spill / release if there is one.
What kind of emergencies are these teams most commonly responding to?
Our teams respond to tank truck incidents, train derailments, pipeline ruptures, radiation incidents, “white powder” incidents, chemical suicides, unknown chemicals, orphan chemicals, and Weapons of Mass Destruction incidents.
What are the biggest hazards of being on a Haz-Mat response team?
The many hazards team members face include flammables, corrosives, radiological, poisons, flammable solids, gasses, unknowns and identification, contamination/decontamination.
What are the main tools in their toolkit?
The tools commonly used by members of a Haz-Mat team are detection devices, library resources, personal protective equipment, containment devices, and decontamination equipment. The most important tool in their toolkit, though, is knowledge — which is why we provide so many educational and training opportunities for team members.
What have you found most rewarding during your years directing the Haz-Mat program?
The most rewarding part of my tenure is working closely with the fire departments and team members to design, develop, implement and maintain the hazardous materials regional response system. I have met with many fire service personnel through the years and developed many lasting friendships while promoting and sustaining this program. I will miss all of you with whom I have developed working relationships and those that provided input and provided assistance and ideas throughout the process.