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First Responders Train on Chemical Spill Exercise

Firefighters talk to a tanker truck driver who shows signs of injuries following a chemical spill. Thankfully, this time it's just a drill.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) It's the beginning of harrowing situation: a tanker truck, leaking an unknown substance on the roadway.

Thankfully, it's just a training exercise.

"When you're talking about hazardous materials I hope the first thing they do is the guys start thinking about their own safety and maybe slow down a little bit," said George Albert, Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of St. Joseph.  "We're used to responding to fire scenes, auto accidents, and things.  Hazardous materials are a little more dangerous because we don't know what the material is."

Albert helped coordinate the exercise, which takes measures to be authentic.

The scenario is during a winter storm, with 8-10 inches of snow on the ground.

A tanker has overturned, and is spilling an unknown substance onto the roadway, and possibly into the Missouri River.

When the call goes out, all agencies respond.

"We want to prepare ourselves as best we can.  We never want to have these incidents.  There's not that many that go on usually that get to be catastrophic.  We've all seen them on TV and everything like that.  It's going to be a long day one way or the other," Albert said.

Police work the perimeter, noticing the driver has injuries.

Firefighters set up a command post and then send enter the scene, dressed to the nines in hazmat gear.

Overseeing and evaluating the drill are a few representatives from state agencies.

Mimi Diaz represents the Missouri Emergency Response Commission, and Roarke Holzschuh represents the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Both carry around clipboards, where they fill out whether certain criteria are met by the response.

"We make sure they go through the proper motions, they notify the proper authorities, they take the right steps when they come across a scene such as this," Holzschuh said.

Life is the first priority, and the firefighters work to make sure the injured are taken care of first and foremost.

The environmental impact comes last.

"We'll try to figure out what the material is, how much of it is spilled, and how dangerous that amount could be, and where it might travel to once it's gotten out of its container," Holzschuh said.
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