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Full-Scale Drill

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HAZMAT: Emergency personnel go through decontamination procedures during Wednesday's hazardous materials drill hosted by CF Industries.
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HOSE RUPTURE: The "victim" of a hose rupture lays under a tank truck as a smoke machine simulatesan ammonia leak.
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RESCUE: The "victim" of an ammonia leak is carried away from the rupture by emergency personnel wearing hazmat suits.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

During the unloading of a tank truck, the loading hose connection began to leak. As the truck driver attempted to tighten the fitting, the leak became worse and engulfed the driver, who was unable to escape the expanding ammonia cloud. A CF Industries operator activated the facility's Emergency Shutdown System, stopping the leak from CF piping. However, the internals on the trailer failed to close, and the trailer pump continued to run. The wind was out of the west at 7 miles per hour, and a large ammonia cloud was drifting to the east.

That was the scenario on Wednesday morning when the Clinton County Local Emergency Planning Committee conducted a full-scale hazardous materials drill on the grounds of CF Industries at 6446 W. Ind. 28.

“Each year, we either do a full-scale drill, a tabletop drill or some sort of drill that includes everyone participating,” said Renee Crick, director of Clinton County Central Dispatch and secretary of the Clinton County LEPC. “Obviously hazmat is critical. This is all hazardous materials out here, and CF Industries wanted to participate. They are part of the LEPC as well. They have a representative from their agency that is on LEPC with us, and they wanted it to be out here. It is good for everybody.

“We have volunteers from LEPC who volunteer to be on the drill committee, and the drill committee decide to do a full-scale event,” Crick added. “They started planning back in April for this today.”

According to a CF Industries employee, once the simulated call to start the drill went out, local first responders had an “outstanding” response time of six minutes and 30 seconds. Drill objectives were to quickly set up unified command, hazmat response and communications. The purpose of the exercise was to “provide participants with an opportunity to exercise current plans and capabilities in response to a hazardous chemical spill.”

Local agencies participating in the drill included the Frankfort Fire Department, Madison Township Fire Department, Perry Township Fire Department, Clinton County EMS, the Clinton County Sheriff's Office, Clinton County Central Dispatch, Red Cross, Clinton County EMA, CF Industries and 10 local EMT students.

Matt Stidham, a FFD captain, Clinton County EMA member and an instructor for Wildcat Creek Co-op's EMT class, saw the drill as a great opportunity for not only local emergency agencies but also his 10 students from three Clinton County high schools – Frankfort, Rossville and Clinton Prairie.

“The EMT class is a high school class that is locally sponsored here through Wildcat Creek Co-op,” Stidham said. “Kurt Cantlen is our representative here in our areas. So, we decided that maybe this would be a good idea to have them come out to this drill, work with the fire department and EMS agency to kind of get an idea in real-life situations what may be taking place in their field. IT gives them a broad perspective of what they may be intertwined with in this career. You are going to be with other agencies, the public and public officials.”

Stidham says these annual drills are good for improving emergency plans.

“It is not about us critiquing what somebody did wrong. It is really about us trying to better ourselves and our community,” he said. “We are looking at this from a perspective of 'OK, did this plan that we have or procedure that we have work? If it didn't work, how can we make it better or fix it?'”

State Sen. Brian Buchanan (R-Lebanon) was among those who came to watch how a response to a scenario like the one presented Wednesday plays out.

“It is something that you never want to happen and you hope never does happen, but you have to be prepared for it,” Buchanan said. “It is nice to see the community here – public safety entities, law enforcement and medical entities here that are ready, trained, willing and able to respond when the call arises. I think a lot can be learned. I think one is for the entities to see how their response is, evaluate it and see if there are areas of strength to grow upon and maybe areas where they can improve. Really, it allows our first responders to see how they would respond and, if there is a weak area, they can improve that. I have always been told that in an emergency you tend to work more off of habit, and whatever you are trained to do is what you are going to do. But, it is really nice to see the community being here to participate in this drill.

“I want to say a big 'thank you' to all of our first responders for taking time today to do this emergency drill and make sure they are prepared to serve our community,” Buchanan added. “For that, I want to say a great big 'thank you' to all of the public safety officials and first responders here in Clinton County.”