Hawkins County Emergency Response Team was organized in May 1995 by Bob Laeng, who served as chief. He had a favorite saying that has become the team motto: “Don’t get none on ya!” (or in ya, for that matter). Sage advice that’s driven the all-volunteer team for more than 25 years.
Located in Tennessee’s northeast corner, Hawkins County extends some 500 square miles and had a population of 57,000. The county’s second largest employer is BAE Systems, a defense contractor — the county school system is the top employer. Automotive component suppliers are other industries also located in the county.
Hawkins County ERT is an eclectic collection of volunteers who are firefighters, EMTs, police and civilians. They are, in fact, the only all-volunteer hazmat team in the entire state. All members are certified to the hazmat technician level and train monthly both as a team and with mutual-aid partners — typically that involves hands-on training. In addition to hazmat, the team performs specialized rescue operations throughout the county.
As with many volunteer hazmat teams and fire departments, volunteer support and funding are the wicked problems that keeps the team leaders up at night. So, it is no surprise that one of the team’s shining moments was landing grant funding to buy gas monitors.
While still parade worthy, the unit’s main apparatus, Hazmat 1, is 1990s’ era Mack with an on-board cascade system. Also parade worthy is the team’s secondary rig, an extended cab pickup outfitted with a box.
Whether it is keeping old rigs in top shape, training or chasing funding options, these Tennessee hazmat volunteers get it done without getting none on ya.