Emergency personnel participate in mock drill

Published 2:24 am Monday, June 4, 2007

By By Adrienne McKenzie
Policemen, firemen and other emergency personnel from all over Escambia County gathered Thursday morning for a train derailment and hijacking situation in Flomaton.
However, residents in the county did not need to be alarmed. All the sirens, flashing lights and other commotion were nothing more than an exercise conducted by the Escambia County Emergency Management Agency and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians' Emergency Management team.
Consultant Lee Helms, former state EMA director, said that all of the personnel involved with the simulation did a great job throughout the day.
"You are to be commended for doing what you're doing," Helms said at the debriefing following the simulation. "The overall management of the entire event was great. You did an excellent job. The way you handled yourselves on the scene was excellent. You met your objective and showed an existing capability that was pretty good. I, as the exercise director, was very impressed."
The simulated situation involved a train derailment in which five train cars derailed and overturned. There was also a commercial bus full of passenger that were being held hostage by a gunman as part of the scenario.
The simulation began with a 911 call and Flomaton Police Department was first on the scene. After seeing the severity of the situation, other emergency personnel from the county were called in.
Both the "hostage" and "victim" situations were cleared at 9:35 a.m. There were two "offenders" who were both taken into custody.
In addition to the hostage situation, the train that overturned was said to be carrying toxic chemicals – ammonium nitrate and another toxic liquid.
Local response teams did not have the capabilities to handle the leaks and additional help from Mobile Hazmat was called in. The chemicals supplied radiation of a half-mile radius, which meant evacuation for areas surrounding the spill.
The "victims" were decontaminated by Poarch Band of Creek Indian fire and rescue workers and then taken to either Atmore Community Hospital or D.W. McMillan Hospital in Brewton. The rescue and decontamination was complete by 9:56 a.m. There were 25 victims total with one confirmed fatality and two critical patients.
At the debriefing after the event, each department leader was able to share his or her thoughts, giving constructive criticism or praising those that did a good job throughout the morning.
Atmore Fire and Rescue chief Gerry McGhee said that overall the day was good but that there are still things that his men and the workers throughout the county need to work out.
"I think everything went find," McGhee said. "There are a lot of things we need to work on and need more training on but overall I think we did really good."
Atmore police chief Jason Dean said that he was proud to be a part of the training experience.
"Any training is beneficial," Dean said. "I was very pleased with the turnout and I was glad to work with each and every one of them."
All agencies that participated in the event included several fire departments from the county, several law enforcement agencies from the county, three local emergency medical services, Atmore Community Hospital and D.W. McMillan Hospital, Alabama Department of Public Health, Escambia County School Board, local chapters of the American Red Cross, Escambia County Area Transit, Jefferson Davis Community College nursing students, Poarch Creek Emergency Management and Escambia County Emergency Management. The event was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security Guidelines to evaluate Escambia County's ability to respond to local emergencies.

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