Bomba’s Hazardous Materials Experts


Around the world, fire departments are normally the first responders to emergencies involving hazardous materials. This calls for specialised firefighters who trained and certified in chemical identification, leak control, decontamination and clean-up procedures.

In Malaysia, these specialists work under the Hazardous Materials Unit or Hazmat, a special unit of the Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia (JBPM).

Established on 29 October 1992 following the Bright Sparklers Fireworks Disaster that occurred in Sungai Buloh, Selangor a year earlier, the unit is in charge of dealing with chemical hazards such as:

  1. Handling of hazardous chemical spills
  2. Handling of radiation leaks
  3. Extinguishment of fire caused by hazardous materials
  4. Handling of CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive)
An emergency drill between Hazmat units from Malaysia and Singapore

As of 2019, there are 18 Hazmat units in Malaysia, with Sarawak and Penang being the only states with two Hazmat teams. Each team should ideally have 33 Hazmat responders.

JBPM has 16 Hazmat specialists, 650 Hazmat technicians and 12,000 Hazmat first responders nationwide, as well as 20 special Hazmat vehicles and 1,100 fire rescue tenders dedicated for Hazmat-related emergencies.

To ensure that they are up to speed with the latest knowledge and skills, members of Hazmat required to undergo a 20-hour training every month.

The training encompasses modules as specified in the Hazmat Log Book, including skills in wearing breathing apparatus and protective gear, using detection and decontamination equipment, Hazmat disaster management tactics and methodology, and knowledge on the latest hazardous chemicals.

By going through the training, members of Hazmat will be more prepared in handling cases, emergencies and rescues related to toxic or dangerous chemicals.

This is because as fire-fighters with the expertise in hazardous materials, they are considered to be experts in the field by the rest of the units in JBPM, their Hazmat counterparts from overseas and members of the public.

JBPM’s decision to establish a Hazmat unit in Bintulu is necessary to ensure proper control in handling any emergencies arising from industrial areas such as Samalaju

Hazmat Unit in Sarawak

Sarawak has two Hazmat units; the first was established in Tabuan Jaya, Kuching in 2011 and the second in Bintulu in 2014.

Both units have a total of 58 personnel and three Hazmat vehicles, with one stationed in Tabuan Jaya and two in Bintulu (as of 2019).

Out of these two vehicles in Bintulu, one is dedicated for Hazmat and CBRNE while the other for decontamination.

A JBPM Hazmat vehicle

The Hazmat operation in Bintulu was set up due to the division’s rapid growth in the heavy industry which has been driving Sarawak and Malaysia’s industrialisation through the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

Being home to a number of industrial estates and Samalaju Industrial Park where operations can involve dangerous materials, JPBM’s decision to establish a Hazmat unit in Bintulu is necessary to ensure proper control in handling any emergencies arising from these areas.

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