In order to respond to situations involving Weapons of Mass Destruction or other hazardous materials, the FBI has created Hazardous Materials Response Units (HMRU). HRMUs are specially trained and possess unique skills and equipment necessary to investigate areas where biological, chemical or nuclear materials may be present. These Units usually include FBI Agents, scientists, logistical specialists and highly trained personnel in HAZMAT jobs. Since their creation in 1996, the 27 HRMUs distributed around the country have been involved in 519 response operations, 105 special events, and 13 national exercises.
The Role of the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit (HMRU)
Hazardous Materials Response Units have a multifold mission. Their initial duty is to enter the area in question and ascertain if an explosive or dispersal device is present and attached to life threatening reagents. If such materials are present, HRMU personnel alert the field operatives so that they can cordon off the area and implement a threat response strategy. The HRMU members then analyze the devices and materials so that the proper neutralization strategy can be executed.
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Once the device or materials have been safely neutralized, they are packaged and transported to safe facility for further analysis. Throughout this process, the HRMU members are carefully recording the scene with video equipment, and gathering any forensic evidence available. Because the purpose of the HRMUs is to provide evidence to investigators so that perpetrators may be apprehended and a legal case constructed, HRMU personnel are also trained in forensic science. The normal process of collecting forensic samples is often complicated by the presence of explosive devices and chemical materials that inhibit normal investigative operations. Therefore HRMU professionals must possess the highest competencies as well as the strength of character to function properly within high risk environments.
Hazardous Materials Response Unit Job Description
HRMU personnel in HAZMAT jobs are expected to perform the following duties:
- Identify types of hazardous materials, containers and explosive or dispersal devices so that a public safety response can be implemented
- Maintain optimal expertise about WMDs and response strategies
- Rapidly implement a mitigation or neutralization strategy so that toxic or radiological materials are safely contained
- Defuse or dismantle devices that may distribute hazardous materials
- Isolate individuals who may have been in contact with the hazardous materials
- Gather forensic evidence for analysis and use in investigations or legal proceedings
HAZMAT Salary with the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit
The personnel on a HMRU are typically scientists, HAZMAT officers and some supervisory Special Agents. Those with Special Agent credentials typically receive a GS-14 or GS-15 pay rating due to their supervisor status, while the support professionals may receive ratings from GS-7 up to GS-14. In 2012, the salaries for these pay grades were as follows:
- General Schedule 7: $33,979-$44,176
- General Schedule 14: $84,697-$110,104
- General Schedule 15: $99,628-$129,517
The salaries for all FBI personnel are adjusted 12.5 up to 28.7 percent for the higher cost of living in some locations. Special Agents receive an additional 25 percent bonus for their around the clock availability and extended hours. Support professionals may also merit a bonus for availability, hazard and overtime.