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County, NNSA modify fire protection agreement

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The National Nuclear Security Administration and the Los Alamos Fire Department have come to terms on a modified Cooperative Fire Protection Agreement to ensure emergency response capabilities for Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos County.

County Administrator Harry Burgess and Kevin Smith, manager of NNSA’s Los Alamos Site Office, signed the agreement last Thursday afternoon.

The modifications will be in effect for the next nine months, with a renewal agreement targeted for completion in September 2013. The renewal agreement requires Los Alamos County Council approval.

Under the modified agreement, NNSA provides significant funding for fire department salaries, facilities and major equipment. In exchange, the fire department commits to performance-based standards of emergency response, training, certification, security compliance and specialized hazardous event capabilities.

The benefit to NNSA is reliable fire protection capability deployed in proximity to its facilities, which are widely scattered around Los Alamos County. The benefit to the county is that homeowners and non-laboratory enterprises are served cost-effectively by an exceptionally capable emergency response system.

“This improved agreement resolves many longstanding DOE inspector general and Government Accountability Office issues which arose under the previous agreement. It provides a solid foundation for maintaining a high value service for Los Alamos, LANL and the NNSA,” Smith said.

“NNSA’s investment in specialized training and response infrastructure is just what is needed to maintain the safe and secure operation of the laboratory and to serve the community well into the future.”

Burgess agreed. “These modifications will provide a good foundation for the types of changes we anticipate will be forthcoming in the renewal agreement in a few more months. The laboratory clearly needs specialized services and capabilities that a community of this size would typically not possess or provide. The Cooperative Fire Protection Agreement provides an avenue for the Department of Energy to fund those specialized capabilities and the entire county is safer and more secure because of it.”

Burgess noted that recent improvements funded under the Cooperative Agreement include replacement of the county’s entire fleet of 12-year-old ambulances with a model that enables paramedics to more quickly and easily maneuver and serve injured patients.  

Key features of the modified Cooperative Agreement include an enhanced LAFD training program specifically tailored to the unique operations and hazards found at LANL; active LAFD participation in LANL exercises and drills; LAFD alignment with DOE physical, information and cyber security requirements; long-term planning for replacement and support of LAFD vehicles; and revised performance standards for emergency response.

 According to LAFD Chief Troy Hughes, “Because of the special requirements and the nature of the lab’s work, being a firefighter in Los Alamos is like playing in the Super Bowl every day. Our dual role serving the lab and the community means all our customers have a professional, superbly trained, well equipped response force on call, 24/7.”