Grady Co. holds drill to test all emergency responders -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Grady Co. holds drill to test all emergency responders

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By LeiLani Golden - bio | email

CAIRO, GA (WALB) –Grady County emergency agencies came together Thursday for a full scale disaster response exercise.

The drill tested the agencies ability to work together in a safe, efficient manner in the event they might have to do so for real one day.

It's a frightening scenario. A log truck slams into a train carrying hazardous materials, killing six people and sending a plume of toxic chemicals into the air.

"We do have a main railroad that cuts right through the middle of town through housing and industrial areas," explains Tim VanLandingham, the spokesman for Grady County Emergency Management.

Fortunately for Cairo, the tragic accident was just a drill. But it gave the Sheriff's office, police and fire departments, hazmat teams, and other responding agencies a rare chance to work together.

"These folks very professionally carried out what they did today," says VanLandingham.

His daughter Rebekah volunteered as a victim. "I learned that even in the hardest incident, they're all prepared for this," she said. "They did an excellent job."

The drill's plot originally involved a terrorist group injecting lethal gas into a courtroom during a high profile trial.

"The scenario was changed because we became too comfortable," VanLandingham told us. "And this needed to be something new that would actually test even more so the agencies responding."

Only the supervisors of each agency knew about the change, leaving the actual first responders in the dark.

"We didn't want them to know cause they're the ones out in the trenches," says Jim Ellis, director of the Grady County Emergency Management Services.

Although the entire exercise was make-believe, these emergency personnel know all too well that disasters really do happen.

"Wendell Harrison was killed just a few days ago in a gas explosion in Cairo," VanLandingham reminds people. "These things are very fresh. And we have to be ready."

And volunteers are proud to be a part of the training exercise.

"I feel like I'm helping our emergency personnel and helping the community by participating," says a proud Gayle Cox. "It's a very valuable drill."

A drill that may one day save many lives.

Following the field drill, Grady Memorial hospital performed a hot wash to rid victims of hazardous chemicals.

The emergency management agencies then met for a full assessment on the exercise and we're told everyone performed extremely well.

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