Hazardous Materials Operations

Hazardous Materials Administrative Unit’s (HMAU) roles and missions are divided into several areas of responsibility in which the functions overlap and are complimentary to each other.  The functions include: 

  • Operations
  • Support and Coordination
  • Training
  • Inspections related to hazardous materials.

The HMAU continues its emphasis on the prevention of hazardous materials incidents. The events around the world have also been a strong reminder of the importance of Homeland Defense and our first responder capabilities.  There is an ongoing collaborative effort within the Fire Department, industry, other City departments, and state and federal agencies, to refine our response capability while continuing efforts to reduce and eliminate potential risk to the community. A primary focus of the HMAU continues to be the training of responders to mitigate hazardous material releases and similar emergencies.  The Unit develops and implements training programs, which fulfill all mandated requirements under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120, EPA 40 CFR 311, and Pennsylvania's Act 165.

Rapid Assessment Team
The Rapid Assessment Team whose concept was first deployed in 2001 continues to be updated and refined.  This Unit employs a multi-agency response with a stand-by staff of Hazmat Technicians, Police, and Health Department personnel.  It is available for service during heightened threats and special events like the Army and Navy Game and deals with “Anthrax” or other unknown chemical/biological threats.

New Technology Initiatives
HMAU also acquired a new biological detection instrument for use by the Hazardous Materials Task Force.  The Rapid Analytical Measuring Platform (R.A.M.P.) is a reliable, user friendly system which is used to detect anthrax, ricin, small pox, botulinum toxin, and the plague.  This instrument will enhance the task forces biological detection capabilities.

HMAU is investigating new detection equipment with state-of-the-art technology.   The Product Acoustical Signature System (P.A.S.S.) uses acoustic waves similar to sonar to identify and measure unknown liquids in a sealed container.


  • HMAU participates in several Community Advisory Counsels and Panels, which fosters a partnership with industry, community, and local government.  These outreach programs educates all parties involved and make for a safer environment.
  • The HMAU has labored to increase Hazardous Materials response inter-operability and multiple agency cooperation in the area of air, rail, and marine transportation.
  • The Unit conducts site inspections and compliance follow-ups to insure the safe storage, use, and handling of hazardous materials in the City of Philadelphia.  These inspections also serve to identify and remove hazards from sites that could otherwise cost the City millions of dollars in environmental damage and systems disruption.
  • In accordance the Federal Right to Know Laws, the HMAU maintained 359 Tier II reports in our computer system including over 114 SARA Covered Facilities.
  • The Unit coordinated with both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) in the identification of local Hazardous Waste Activity Sites.  Note that cleanup of these sites also contributes to the Neighborhood Transition Initiative..

Neighborhood Transformation Initiative
HMAU continues to assist the Streets Department by providing an on-scene technical representative during scheduled the bi-monthly Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection days.  These events permit residents to safely dispose of accumulated materials that would pose a hazard to the health and safety of the community.

Collaborative Efforts

  • The HMAU interacts with many departments, county agencies, along with both state and federal agencies.
  • The State agencies include  PA Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP), various Units of the PA National Guard, and the PA State Training Coordinator.
  • Federal agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Coast Guard, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U. S. Secret Service, and other agencies as circumstances and events dictate.
  • HMAU staff members serve on several area committees, which include membership of local, state, and federal agencies.  These are the State Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Task Force and the Coast Guard’s Port Security Committee.
  • HMAU serves as part of the Managing Directors Office’s Inter-Agency Task Force for auto recycling facilities in the City, which promotes safety through education and code enforcement.
  • The HMAU Chief serves as the Fire Department’s designated member on the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) which is mandated under PA Title 165 and SARA Title III

Public Health and Safety
The HMAU was instrumental in establishing Bridesburg Shelter-in-Place Committee, which is a community outreach initiative to enhance hazardous materials safety.  This committee began a Shelter-in-Place outreach program in partnership with educators of both the public and parochial City school systems, the Philadelphia Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), and industry.  The outreach educates teachers, parents, and children how to safely shelter-in-place during a chemical emergency.

With the naming of Philadelphia as a “Strategic Military Port” in 2003, the Local Coast Guard Marine Safety Office has implemented heightened security and preventive measures along the entire coastline of the Port.  This designation calls for improved communications and agency inter-operability with an increased emphasis on the hazardous materials incident response capabilities of Philadelphia’s HazMat Task Force Unit.

HMAU provides Hazmat Survey Teams for each Philadelphia Eagles Home Game.




  Hazmat Image

Hazmat Training Exercise