Emergency crews put to the test - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Emergency crews put to the test

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September 9, 2003

Douglas- A train with two oxidizers filled with sodium peroxide... a 18-wheeler hauling gallons of flammable liquid... numerous injuries and fatalities... and the threat of more as poisonous fumes drift off into the air.

Time is of the essence when working with hazardous materials, but it's always safety first the team literally has minutes to get dressed and go in.

Fortunately this collision is just a drill.

"What we're doing is a mock collision as a training exercise for area A Coffee County and the city of Douglas," explains Bob Martin of CSX.

Still crews must treat the wreck as an actual emergency. Officials from the railroad, several emergency agencies and city officials are looking on evaluating their performance.

"I work with GEMA school safety, and my purpose here is to evaluate the accident and how they handle the situation with the fumes blowing toward the middle school," says Gordon Lowe.

There's nothing haz mat teams can do once fumes hit the air, so it's avoiding these types of collisions that motorists must focus on.

"52% of all our collisions happen at intersections with active warning devices, and those warning devices are paid for by the taxpayers. Why would somebody knowingly disregard something they paid for to get hit by a train," adds Martin.

Today's wreck a dress rehearsal for emergency crews. Tomorrow it could be different story.

EMS, fire, law enforcement, and haz mat teams will review and discuss the mock train wreck and receive a grade on their performance.

Douglas haz mat teams play a crucial role in emergency situations throughout South Georgia. They not only respond to calls in Coffee County, but Douglas emergency personal also serve 21 other counties as the regional haz mat response team.

The city applied for homeland security funds for the their haz mat teams after September 11th.

Posted at 3:35 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com