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IN CASE OF EMERGENCY

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Local agencies use exercise to test their skills

By The Staff

Carroll County emergency services personnel put their skills to the test June 16 with a disaster drill that involved the simulated release of two hazardous chemicals in separate incidents.

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The drill, coordinated by Carroll County Emergency Services, began at 9:20 a.m. with a scenario where hydrochloric acid was accidentally released at Dow Corning.

As teams dealt with this situation, crews were then called to a simulated wreck involving a car that ran into the rear of a tanker truck near Dow Corning, releasing dimethyl hydrogen chlorosilane. As part of this exercise, a busload of students drove through the scene, and the students were supposedly exposed to spray from this accident scene.

The scenario had three workers at Dow Corning taken to the hospital, one of those seriously injured. Additionally, 15 students on the bus were taken to Carroll County Memorial Hospital where they went through the decontamination process.

As emergency response teams handled the situations at Dow Corning, the accident scene on U.S. Hwy. 42 and at CCMH, the drill included a news conference at the Emergency Operations Center held by Dow Corning Public Information Officer Christine Head and County Emergency Services Deputy Director Mitchell Perkins to brief The News-Democrat on the various incidents.

County Emergency Services Director Ed Webb said there were close to 200 people from 20 organizations and agencies who participated in the exercise.

“Overall, I think it went very well. We used the incident command system, and that worked very well for us,” Webb said Monday morning. “All the agencies worked very well together … We found just a couple of small things that we need to work on or make small purchases of additional equipment for — nothing major.”

Webb said he worked with Tony Crutcher and two other officials from Dow Corning to plan the drill.

“Part of our commitment to safety at Dow Corning is having a strong relationship with local emergency agencies,” Head said Friday. “Anytime we can work together to build relationships and learn from each other is a win/win for the county and Dow Corning.”

Officials purposely planned the exercise with a complex series of events.

“It helps us to see how we work together, but it also helps us to determine whether we have the resources to handle more than one incident,” Webb said.

If there was only one element of the exercise happening, such as the students coming into the hospital to be decontaminated, Webb said officials would pull more people than would be needed from all over the county.

“But if you’ve got something else going on such as the incident at Dow Corning, the incident on (Hwy.) 42 … it taxes your resources. But it lets you know whether your resources are going to be adequate to handle more than one incident at a time,” he said. Webb pointed out that the exercise not only looks at manpower, but also equipment, vehicles, fire apparatus and ambulances.

The incident on Hwy. 42 represented what might happen if a driver was paying attention to the excitement at Dow Corning instead of the road. Firefighters and rescue teams had to deal with the consequences of a traffic accident involving a car with the driver trapped and a tanker truck leaking chlorosilane.

With the hazardous chemical leaking, those responding to the incident would have had to be at least 150 feet away from the scene. Firefighters wore Hazmat suits to fix the leak and rescue workers used the Jaws of Life to free the driver from the vehicle, all under the direction of incident commander, Ghent Fire Chief Pat Stewart. Completing this part of the drill took several hours of work during the drill.

Carrollton Fire Chief Randy Tharp said the decontamination using the Carroll County Emergency Management tent went fairly smooth at CCMH.

“We’ve set (the tent) up before in training, but this is the first time we’ve set it up and spewed water through it in training,” he said.

While the football players were simply showered with water in the tent, Tharp said in the event of a real emergency, those contaminated would have to strip their clothes off, shower with detergent and cold water and visit the emergency room afterward.

Webb said the exercise was one of the largest planned in recent years.

“Dow Corning was a very key player in this exercise,” Webb said. “I wanted to exercise all the personnel for the county, such as my two deputies and EMS. So I didn’t have any of them involved in the design of the exercise.”

Other agencies and organizations taking part in the drill: Carroll County’s Emergency Operations Center, Carroll County Emergency Management, Carroll County Dispatch, CCMH, Carroll County Regional Hazmat/WMD Team, Ghent Fire Protection District, Carrollton Fire Department, Carrollton Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, Carroll County Rescue Squad, Carrollton United Methodist Church, Carroll County Schools, Carroll County High School football team, The News-Democrat, Kentucky Emergency Management Duty Office and Area 6 Manager Rick Watkins, Arkema and M&M Towing.