Emergency teams conduct Hazmat drill

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Emergency teams conducted a hazmat drill on Sept. 26. The event consisted of a car crash followed by a simulated mobile meth lab explosion. Firefighters are pictured above washing one of the victims involved in the crash. The firefighters were Lance Allcock, Travis Blair and Lt. Randall Prock. Pictured in the background, in the staging area, were Fire Chief Tom Jones and Captain Danny Fowler. [Times Photo by Lisa Craft]

They were dressed in white suits and carried oxygen tanks but this wasn't a group of ghost busters. It was a hazmat team.

An emergency scenario involving suspected hazardous materials kept firefighters and other first responders in Monett on their toes on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

The training exercise began with a police officer responding to a car accident. As he walked towards the vehicle, an explosion occurred, because of a mobile meth lab.

Monett Police Department officers, Monett Fire Department and Barry-Lawrence County Ambulance personnel responded to a hazmat drill held on Sept. 26. After assessing the situation, firefighters suited up in the hazmat suits to attend to one of the victims in the crash and pulled them to safety so the victim could be washed down before being transported to the hospital. [Times Photo by Lisa Craft]

There were five victims involved in the simulation, including the police officer, who suffered injuries in the training exercise. The driver of the vehicle was killed when he made impact with the steering wheel. Two other passengers were ejected and on the ground, and another passenger was injured and fled from the scene.

This exercise looked like a full-scale emergency to test skills in a mock hazmat situation.

Back-up Monett Police officers were called to the scene and staged in the area but were not allowed to approach the incident until the hazmat team arrived.

The Monett Fire Department arrived on the scene and immediately began assessing the situation. Also responding were two Barry-Lawrence County ambulances.

"In a situation involving the possibility of toxins, it takes longer," said Monett Fire Chief Tom Jones. "The firefighters have to protect themselves before taking care of the victims because you don't know what you are dealing with."

The drill takes place once a year to satisfy State and Federal Emergency Management Agencies (SEMA and FEMA) regulations.

After firemen arrived on the scene and assessed the situation, one fireman suited up and checked the air quality to determine the location of the hot zone, the warm zone and the cold zone. An air monitor was used to detect toxins or gas in the air. Cones were placed at each zone level.

How the firemen suited up depends on what kind of toxins are detected.

Two firemen packed gear and prepared to go in. Two more suited up and took standby positions. The two firemen that went to the scene will accessed the victims and pulled them out. The victims were brought to the warm zone where they are decontaminated and washed off.

"In a real situation where there is a threat of a true chemical, we would have had to strip the victims down in the warm zone, wash them down and then send them to the hospital," said Jones.

Once the patients were transported, DNR would be contacted and the fire department would tell them of the situation. DNR would decide whether or not they need to come.

"If DNR does not come," said Jones, "we will decontaminate and then take the vehicle away."

Participating as the victims in the explosion were Dakota Buller, Jacob Ellis and Dakota Maynard, all Sarcoxie High School students; Shasta Schmidt, Monett Police Department dispatcher; and Detective Jeff Martinson.

The Monett hazmat team has not encountered any situations like the training simulation.

"The only scenes that we have had to take care of was when gasoline tankers have turned over or we have had some industry ammonia leaks," said Jones. "In a real situation, like today, we may have to put on our encapsulated level A suits, which are like moon suits.

"I think that the drill went great. Afterwards we all sat down at the police department and discussed the training. There are some things that need to change or be upgraded, but on the whole everything went smooth and good."

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