The Special Operations Division has a multitude of responsibilities, including hazardous materials and terrorism response, technical rescue response, housing the Southwest Georgia Search and Rescue unit, serving on the Local Emergency Planning Committee, coordinating grant programs, and conducting departmental hiring processes. The Division also coordinates responses outside of the Valdosta Fire Department's jurisdiction. Some of these responses have included the 2004 G8 Summit meeting in Sea Island, Georgia, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Baker County tornadoes, and the wildfires in Ware and Atkinson Counties in 2007.
The Valdosta Fire Department has been equipped with a hazardous materials response team for over 25 years. The capabilities of this team have steadily increased as the responsibilities have increased. After the events of 9/11, the Federal Emergency Management Agency made available grant funds for Georgia to battle new threats and to increase their existing capability to respond to and mitigate a variety of hazards. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency designated the Valdosta Fire Department to receive funding to increase our capabilities to meet these new threats. We are a Type III team and one of several hazardous materials/WMD response teams recognized by GEMA.
In the area of technical rescue, the Valdosta Fire Department can respond to incidents involving high-angle rescues such as someone trapped on a water tower or other high structure, confined space rescues primarily located at industrial sites, trench and excavation cave-ins, vehicle and machinery entrapments, and structural collapse incidents. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency has recently selected us to be one of 10 Urban Search and Rescue (structural collapse) departments in the state. We are a Type III team with grant funding in excess of $1 million.
As a member of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, we offer assistance in the planning for large-scale incidents that could affect our area. Among the incidents that require extensive planning are tropical storms and hurricanes, hazardous materials releases, floods, and pandemic influenza. It is the responsibility of this committee to prepare for these various incidents, and the Valdosta Fire Department plays a critical role.