CAMPBELL Toxic-spill drill prepares crews for the real thing
Emergency crews practice reacting to simulations as if they actually happened.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
CAMPBELL -- Here's the scenario: A 50-car train traveling west near Wilson Avenue has derailed spilling chlorine and sending up a yellow vapor cloud over part of the city.
What do you do?
This is the situation about 50 public-safety officials from across Mahoning County handled Thursday morning during an exercise in Campbell City Hall.
And if it sounds far-fetched, consider that an unattended 47-car train carrying hazardous materials traveled about 70 miles through northwest Ohio at up to 45 mph Tuesday, until it slowed to 10 mph and a railroad employee was able to hop aboard and bring it to a stop.
One sheriff told reporters a derailment would have been disastrous; however, no injuries were reported.
A train carrying 45 tons of high-level radioactive waste is scheduled to pass through Butler, Pa., New Castle, Youngstown, Ravenna and Akron this summer, emergency management officials announced recently.
Who was involved: In Thursday's exercise, Campbell Fire Chief David Horvath served as the incident commander, and representatives of local hospitals, police and fire departments, emergency medical services, hazardous materials teams and the Red Cross and Salvation Army worked together to ensure the safety of their residents.
"It's of great value to do these types of exercises. It helps you realize what type of support you may need to put into service. In case of a real emergency, you know your capabilities and what you need to implement," Horvath said.
Participants in such an exercise learn about the resources various county agencies can provide, he added.
Unexpected complications: But not everything went according to plan.
As teams worked to contain the spill, Boardman Fire Chief Jim Dorman, the exercise master of ceremonies, said sparks ignited an imaginary brush fire near Iron City Wood Products, a real Wilson Avenue business where hundreds of wood pallets are stored.
He also told the crew that the wood pallets caught fire.
Other instances, such as a routine kitchen fire in Campbell, which the busy fire crew can't get to, are thrown in for good measure. Horvath and the others must react to each situation as if it actually occurred.
Walter Duzzny, director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency, said the train wreck scenario is important because of the county's numerous rail yards.
"The intent of this is to look at where we're at," he said.
If a similar emergency happened in Campbell, Duzzny said, city hall would act as home base for emergency crews.
"The value of it is to get everybody prepared in case of an actual derailment or any incident of that nature," said Nick Pope, Coitsville Township fire chief. Although Coitsville has no railroads, township firefighters may be called to a nearby community in case of a railroad accident, he added.