As sirens blared and firefighters suited up, the word came in over the radio: A vehicle had struck a tanker full of hazardous chemicals on the railroad tracks across South Washington Street in Greenfield, and industrial solvent was spilling out of the side.
While there was no actual chemical spill, to the more than 50 people who participated in a full-scale disaster simulation in Greenfield on Wednesday, emergency protocols still had to be practiced.
“I was very pleased with the exercise,” said Jim Lyle, director of the Highland County Emergency Management Agency.
The exercise, which is required by law to be carried out periodically in order to keep emergency response units up to snuff, included the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District, the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, Greenfield Police Department, Highland District Hospital, Adena Greenfield Medical Center and the American Red Cross, as well as volunteers who acted as victims.
This reporter participated in the exercise as a public information officer, whose duty is to alert the press through various mediums and apprise the public of emergency situations.
At the scene of the spill, several children and a man were laying on the ground around the railroad tracks.
Each held a card that detailed their symptoms for medical responders to simulate treatment, and several of the younger “victims” were more than happy to play the part.
While emergency workers and hazardous material technicians responded to the scene, Red Cross volunteers established a shelter at the First Presbyterian Church in Greenfield to house evacuees.
Several victims were transported to the hospital in Greenfield, while others were sent to HDH in Hillsboro.
Despite some simulation-related communications issues between the hospitals and EMS units, the exercise went smoothly, Lyle said.
“We made some mistakes, and some of them were mine, some of them were just because we hadn’t done a full-scale in some time, but none of them were earth-shattering,” he said.
Lyle said emergency responders in Highland County have never failed an exercise, although the simulation isn’t necessarily a pass-or-fail ordeal.
According to Lyle, the main purpose of the exercise is to find areas of improvement in local emergency response.
“It was a good exercise,” he said. “We should do it more often, but getting everybody together to do it is hard.”
In several weeks, Lyle said some of those who evaluated and participated in the exercise will get together and come up with any necessary action items to improve emergency response procedures.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.