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Sharlot Hall to Conduct Hazardous Materials Drill
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29 August 2016   Conrad Jackson, PFD

Hazardous Materials Collaboration

There will be a hazardous materials drill conducted at the Sharlot Hall Museum on August 30 and 31, from roughly 9am to 5pm both days.  The museum itself will be open and operating normally but parking in both of the museum’s parking lots, as well as along McCormick Street will be impacted.  Citizens will note a number of government vehicles as well as fire apparatus in the area as the training is being conducted.  Personnel in various levels of protective clothing will be seen operating in and around the museum’s grounds.  The fire department asks that operational personnel be left undistracted from their assigned tasks and that any inquiries by the public be made either directly to the fire department or to public information officers that will be available on site.  Some background on the drill is as follows…

Sharlot Hall Museum, by its very nature, collects things.  During a recently conducted census of their collection they determined that over the decades they had acquired materials which had the potential to put their collection or the curators themselves at risk.  As an example, a donation in the 1970’s from a local doctor’s office yielded an assortment of both contemporary medical utensils of the time and an assortment of tinctures and medical paraphernalia the doctor had collected over her career.  Some of these bottles, with the glass containers themselves being works of art, contained liquids completely unknown due to lack of identification or labels.  Other items in the collection contained substances that were once considered useful antiseptics and tonics but have since been deemed carcinogenic or otherwise hazardous.

The museum, recognizing the risks associated with certain items in their collection, contacted the Prescott Area Hazardous Materials Response Team (PAHMRT) to conduct an evaluation of the collection.  The PAHMRT team consists of firefighters from both Prescott Fire Department and Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority who are trained hazardous materials technicians.  Members of the team did a cursory investigation and determined that while none of said materials presented any extraordinary risk to life or health, due to the size of the collection and the team’s limited access to qualitative analysis equipment, the museum’s collection would be best evaluated by the Arizona National Guard’s 91st Civil Support Team.  The 91st CST is a state and national resource who specializes in hazardous materials identification and assessment.  

The PAHMRT team and the 91st CST have conducted joint training annually for several years and saw this collection as an opportunity to conduct a mutually beneficial drill where hazardous materials technicians would be able to practice using proper collection and identification techniques while the museum would reap the benefit of having its unknowns identified and any significantly hazardous materials in the collection neutralized.  The drill is anticipated to last two days and should have a minimum impact to museum patrons.