The Hazardous Materials Response Unit was established in 1996 in response to the threat of terrorism involving chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and to an expanding caseload of environmental crimes. The Unit provides the capability to safely and effectively respond to criminal acts and incidents involving the use of hazardous materials and develops the FBI's technical proficiency and readiness for crime scene and evidence-related operations in cases involving chemical, biological, and radiological materials and wastes. This is accomplished through an integrated effort involving specialized response teams, a national training program, interagency liaison, technical assistance to FBI field and Headquarters divisions, and the development of field response programs. The Unit also trains, equips, and certifies FBI field office personnel for hazardous materials operations.
During 1999, the Unit responded to 19 hazardous materials incidents, trained 522 FBI personnel in hazardous materials response capabilities, and outfitted five FBI field divisions with hazardous materials response equipment. In addition, the Unit provided investigative and field response support in more than 175 cases involving the threatened use of biological agents, including ricin and anthrax, and established a 24-hour on-call support system for FBI field divisions, which provides rapid access to Unit personnel with relevant hazardous materials response and operational experience.
The Unit also organized and provided response readiness at special events, including the Pope John Paul II visit to the United States, the World Alpine Games, and the Super Bowl. Support was also provided for the 50th Anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Washington, DC, and marked the first deployment of the Unit's Fly-Away Laboratory.