Emergency responders group plans drill tomorrow in Brooklyn

October 06, 2003|By Cyril T. Zaneski | Cyril T. Zaneski,SUN STAFF

Regional emergency responders will stage their annual hazardous materials drill tomorrow in Brooklyn.

Here's the scenario: A rail car loaded with an extremely strong, reactive acid will derail at 9:30 a.m. just west of the Rhodia Inc. chemical plant on Fairfield Road. The derailment - which under the drill scenario could have been an accident or might have been caused by terrorism - releases chlorosulfuric acid that injures about 25 people and threatens workers at nearby businesses and participants at a city vehicle auction.

The 18th annual drill will be held to sharpen the preparedness of emergency responders from more than 36 government agencies and private companies that form the South Baltimore Industrial Mutual Aid Plan.

In its 21st year, the mutual aid coalition is aimed at training emergency responders to pool equipment and to cooperate across agency lines under trying circumstances, said Craig Childres, division manager for the cleanup contractor, A&A Environmental, and president of the coalition.

"The motto of [our group] is `working together works,'" Childres said.

While drills test equipment and techniques, the group's ultimate goal is to help responders know each other. "The single biggest problem in an emergency situation is the human factor - ego," he said. "The drills help you get to know people on a first-name basis. You know their abilities as well as their limitations."

Tomorrow's "live" drill will feature an actual derailed car and chlorosulfuric acid, Childres said. "There is no substitute for a live situation," he said.

A crane will derail the tank car. Responders will then deal with the spilled acid - a pale yellow liquid with a sharp, pungent odor that is used in the production of detergents and lubricants. Severe exposure to the acid's vapors can cause life-threatening fluid buildup in the lungs, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Childres said the chemical will not threaten people who are not involved in the drill.

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