First responders practice hazmat skills in massive drill

ROANOKE, Va. – First responders in the Roanoke Valley are now ready to respond if a chemical incident ever happens.

The Environmental Protection Agency sponsored a massive hazmat training featuring a variety of local agencies, including Roanoke Fire and Emergency Management Services and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

"Just like any trade, you want to practice and do things in full scale in real life as often as you can," said Myles Bartos of the EPA. "This is one of the opportunities to do that."

The first responders worked to clean up a mock plane crash and hazardous materials situation at the Roanoke Industrial Center.

"You have to take it seriously," Bartos said. "You have to train as you play and play as you train."

Roanoke Fire EMS Battalion Chief Jim Cady says this type of training is needed, especially for younger responders who have never experienced an incident like this.

"This is a realistic enough drill so that the guys feel some of the stress they would be under if this was a real incident," Cady said.

The training also aimed to teach the different crews how to work together if they were ever called to a large scale emergency.

"It's critical that you practice together so that they're not shaking hands and meeting people when there is an actual response," Bartos said. "It's critical to the success of any emergency response activity you may encounter."

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