HAZMAT drill helps emergency services prepare for the worst
By Annette Tait
The natural instinct to help could kill you in an emergency. Especially when a hazardous material, like anhydrous ammonia, is present.
Oliver County law enforcement, firefighters, and ambulance personnel got hands-on experience keeping themselves, crash victims, bystanders, and the media from harm last Sunday afternoon during a full-scale hazardous materials – or HAZMAT – drill at the Oliver County Fairgrounds.
“The purpose is to practice different types of responses so the responders can be more confident when the real thing happens,” Oliver-Mercer Emergency Manager Carmen Reed said, explaining the details for the drill were chosen with potential local hazards in mind.
The scenario was a school bus driver, traveling with seven students and a chaperone, who had a seizure and ran a stop sign, colliding with a semi-truck hauling anhydrous ammonia. The chemical was leaking, causing a cloud of noxious gas to form near the truck cab, which grew as the leak continued and started to spread with the 2 mph westerly wind.
The first dispatch was for a two-vehicle crash, calling for fire and ambulance personnel to respond. As is often true, the page was misleading – there was no indication yet of multiple casualties or the HAZMAT issue. As in real-life, the dispatcher was only able to convey the information received in the 911 call. Additional details may not be available until emergency personnel are on scene and relay information back to dispatch while requesting additional assistance.