FREDERICKTOWN — The scenario was fairly simple: A box truck making a delivery to Kokosing Construction at 700 Salem Ave., Fredericktown, was also carrying barrels of a hazardous chemical, Triethylmine, which were improperly secured.
While en route, one fell over and released its contents, so that when the truck was opened, the delivery crew was overcome. Workers who saw the men fall called 911.
This was a drill. An exercise set up by the Local Emergency Planning Committee to test the response to a hazardous materials situation.
In the situation, Fredericktown EMS rolls in, sees the smoke billowing from the back of the truck where the men have been overcome, and calls in the department’s HazMat response team, which sends firefighters in protective gear and respirators to rescue the downed men.
A decontamination tank is set up to hose down the victims before transport to the hospital.
Troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol arrive to control traffic and divert it off the nearby highway if necessary.
A Mount Vernon Fire Department EMS unit arrives to help transport victims.
Meanwhile, the Emergency Operation Center at the Knox County Emergency Management Agency is put in operation. They stay in contact with emergency teams at the site and contact other agencies, such as the Ohio EPA Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Fredericktown Police, Knox Area Transit (if transport is needed for evacuations) and any other needed emergency backups.
This is not visible to the observer at the scene, although the incident command team at the site, which is in contact with the EOC, will know what is happening.
There is an air of unreality about the scene, but it is a chance for the practice put in by all the agencies individually to be tested in conjunction with the agencies they will have to work with in a real situation, explained Knox County EMA Director Mark Maxwell.
He said outside observers from agencies in other counties watch each phase of the operations and grade them on their performance. The evaluations will be used to determine areas that need improvement.
Participants were also asked to evaluate the exercise, including one survey that will go to each department head involved, and the one that will go to Maxwell for overall evaluation.
Maxwell said he thought the exercise went well.
Laura Webster, 911 Operations Manager, was at the EOC and said things seemed to go smoothly there. She said when the EOC is activated, dispatchers with special training to be part of the EOC team are sent to handle communications there, because back at the 911 center during a real emergency, calls will flood the 911 center.
Exercises like this, she said, give them a chance to practice and be ready for the real thing.
Joe Seollers, Safety Manager for Kokosing Construction, said they have been happy to cooperate with EMA on staging these drills (a smaller one took place last year at the Kokosing facility west of Ohio 13) because although this was a drill, “you never know. You have to be ready.”