Hazmat Drill tests abilities, teamwork of local agencies
BY: Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | September 25, 2013
LANCASTER/DEPEW- It was only a drill Monday evening as fire departments and other emergency response agencies quickly responded to Buffalo Depew Boulevard, in Depew, to handle a railroad chemical spill call.
With crews in full turnout gear and charged hose line from the east and west sides of the bridge on Buffalo Depew Boulevard, near Lancer Court Apartments, members of the Depew Fire Department faced this challenge as if it were a real call.
Depew Fire Department Assistant Chief Scott Wegst said there are hazardous chemicals shipped by rail through the Village of Depew quite frequently and by holding this Hazmat Drill it helps them to see if they are prepared for an incident.
“We have to make sure we have enough resources to handle an incident involving a railcar,” remarked Wegst.
Also, responding to the scene were Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corps (LVAC), Depew and Cheektowaga Disaster Coordinators, Hy-View Fire Company, and Erie County Hazmat- all agencies that would response if the situation was real.
The drill brought out 100 to 150 emergency response personnel.
But it was up to the members of the Depew Fire Department to first assess the situation by going up on the tracks, getting all the placards, and railcar numbers for the department to look up what types of chemicals were in there.
It was determined that one CSX railcar held liquid propane, the other crude oil, and the third railcar contents were unknown at the time, but turned out to be another railcar carrying propane.
“According to CSX, those are the two most used products that ship through the village,” said Wegst.
It was then up to the members of the Erie County Hazmat Team to utilize their spill kits, which capped the leaks on the railcars.
[We have never encountered] anything to this extent, but nothing says it wouldn’t happen,” commented Wegst.
Wegst said the drill lasted about four hours and it is the biggest drill they’ve done in a long time.
“For the most part everything fell into place and all the agencies worked very well together,” remarked Wegst. “One big hurdle we had was radio operations. Since every agency uses different frequencies we had to find common channels that everyone could talk to each other on, and Erie County’s MOC, a mobile communication unit, was perfect for our command post, because they had radios, computers, and access to resources that we don’t.”
For more information on joining the Depew Fire Department visit depewfire.org or email email@example.com