MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — The Michigan National Guard held a hazardous material training exercise Wednesday afternoon at the old Marquette General Hospital.
Among the agencies in attendance were the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security and local Upper Peninsula law enforcement.
The National Guard’s 51st Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team out of Battle Creek helps agencies identify chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive agents. Protocols and response measures are also a part of the training.
“We’re an extra level of protection,” Lt. Col. Kelly Black, commander of the 51st WMD Civil Support Team, said. “So when you have the police or law enforcement that finds something that it isn’t quite what they’re used to dealing with, whether they find chemicals on a scene, or they find something that’s unusually hazardous, so if they see something that’s just out of scale, then they’re able to call upon us to help with things.”
The suits used in the exercises are beyond the capability of a normal hazmat suit. They can withstand rare chemicals that are extremely reactive.
“You think of Marquette as this small burg in the Upper Peninsula, but truthfully we have hazardous material all over the place, be it at the hospital, be at the university, be at the private businesses so it’s important that we keep up to date and know what is out there that can help us do our job,” Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt said.
“So, as a Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, our primary purpose is to identify the hazard, support local law enforcement, support local fire departments, support local hazmat teams or industry. So when they have something that they don’t recognize, we can figure out what it is and we can give them the advice on how to best handle it,” Black said.
The Michigan National Guard has agreed to leave equipment at the Ishpeming or Marquette armories in case of a hazardous material emergency in the area.