Hazmat training gives first responders critical opportunity to work together

Danville-based regional hazmat, technical team held training exercise Thursday

DANVILLE – Thursday, members of the regional hazmat team based in Danville practiced responding to a chlorine gas leak at the Danville wastewater treatment plant.

They hold similar training exercises throughout the year, but Thursday they teamed up with members of the regional technical response team.

"We had a chlorine cylinder, a one-ton cylinder, leaking. We had a smoke machine making the vapor. We had water making the fluid part of that leak. We simulated some drums of hazardous waste," Danville Fire Department Battalion Chief Barry Neal explained.

The joint training exercise was done for the first time in 2016 and is only done once a year, making this joint training exercise critical, especially because not everyone who would respond in a real situation was able to make it to the exercise Thursday or the one held Wednesday.

"We're responding with half the team on both shifts. So, it puts a lot more stress on the guys. Therefore, we have to work together a lot more," said Neal.

For the team members though, they appreciate the opportunity to get experience dealing with the extra stress during the joint exercise rather than having no experience and having to deal with it in a real situation. 

"It's critical. (The training exercise is) very informal," said Danville firefighter James Yeatts. "This could happen down here very easily with the chlorine."

Aside from the increased stress, the exercise added some other new challenges.

"The simulation today, it actually had a drum that actually fell on the fire hydrant and damaged the hydrant. Caused it to leak," said Yeatts.

Neal, who was coordinating the exercise, said there are always things that can be improved on during these exercises, but overall he felt the teams worked well together and everything went smoothly.

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