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Hazmat drills for local departments

By By Arthur McLean Editor
Four of the area's fire departments received special training this week in dealing with hazardous materials.
More than a dozen firefighters gathered at the Poarch Creek Indian Fire Department for two days of training that involved classroom lectures and field exercises for firefighters who might one day have to deal with a deadly chemical spill.
Teachers from UAB's Center for Labor Education and Research came to the tribal fire department as part of their work under a federal grant.
Firefighters experienced and intensive two-day program, designed to be an advanced level of training for hazardous materials response, said Alan Veasey, director of the UAB program.
"We're doing this around the country so these departments can respond to a hazardous materials situation, and they can go into a situation and stop a leak, or whatever they might face," Veasey said.
The field exercises included working in special protective suites and working with decontamination procedures.
The training centered around accidental spills and leaks. "We've been doing this for 14 years, but many of the skills involved here would be useful in the event of a terrorist attack," Veasey said.
Captain Mike Staples, of the Atmore Fire Department, said the training was positive experience.
"It was great, that kind of training is a very good thing to have," Staples said. "With trucking companies operating here, the railroads that run through town, I-65 just down the road and other highways and industry in the area, it's good to have this kind of training if something did happen."
Staples said the members of his department who attended the training would be sharing their lessons with other department members, and he expected the department would ask the UAB teachers to come back again in the future.
The situation practiced Sunday, hit close to home for many members of the Atmore department. The practice situation in Poarch involved a hypothetical spill at a rail depot.
In December, Atmore Firefighters, and other departments were dispatched to a coal train derailment near Wawbeek.
Staples said his department planned to work on more practice situations, including, calls that required mutual aid from other departments.
Members from the Poarch Creek, Atmore, Flomaton, Nokomis, Bay Minette and Frisco City departments participated in the training.
The training is part of a partnership between the UAB Center for Labor Education and Research and the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society.
Veasey said the turnout and the Poarch department's efforts to involve other area fire departments were impressive and deserved recognition.
In related news, Escambia County fire officials were able to purchase new fire radios with a grant of homeland security funds. More information about the radio purchase is in this edition of the Atmore Advance.