The scenario involved a non-descript truck carrying three drums of unknown material. When the truck stops in the parking lot of Heritage Park, one of the drums overturns leaking a vapor that injures six students who were at the park. The driver of the truck is missing and there is no identification indicating what is contained in the drums.
“This exercise is designed to bring in responders from multiple jurisdictions to learn more about incident command systems, hazardous materials and how to properly manage those incidents when they occur,” said Pinal County Emergency Management Director Lou Miranda. “It really helps all the first responders to participate in a simulated environment where there are controlled elements of that exercise.”
Students from the Central Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (CAVIT) participated in the exercise. The students were mock victims, having each been ‘affected’ by the vapors emanating from the leaking drum.
Christian Godoy, a CAVIT student, said that each victim was given a card explaining the ‘symptoms’ they were suffering. After breathing (it was a simulation) the mysterious fumes, first responders came to tend to the victims. First responders were instructed to act as though the symptoms were real.
“It says I have redness and burning to the hands and upper portion of the left side. I also have a stinging sensation to the thighs that I am complaining about and I have redness to the eyes along with raspy voice and cough,” Godoy’s card said.
The symptoms give first responders a chance to use their in the field triage skills when assessing victims for transport or treatment at the scene.
“Our first priority is life safety,” explained Brad Kells, an engineer with the Florence Fire Department. “We went in and did a triage of the victims, took them out of the hazard zone and then went back to make an assessment of what materials were on the truck.”
At the end of the exercise, what really counted was participation in an exercise of this type and learning something new just in case a real hazmat event occurs.
“We are not criticizing anyone on their tactics, techniques or procedures,” Miranda said. “As a matter of fact, we just offer advice on how certain procedures should take place to enhance the learning environment. That’s what this exercise is all about – learning.”
The August 14 hazmat exercise was the third in a series of multi-jurisdictional emergency preparedness exercises that Pinal County Emergency Management supports throughout the region.