Media Contact: Chad McCutcheon
Office Phone: (724) 568-3623 ext. 137
Cell Phone: (724) 448-8521
September 4, 2015- MEI Apollo hosted several Emergency Management Agencies for a Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Act 165 HAZMAT re-certification drill on August 8, 2015. The exercise featured the partnership between the Westmoreland County Team 800 HAZMAT Team and MEI’s HAZMAT Team. Each team must be certified as a HAZMAT Emergency Response team by PEMA and every three years certifications are renewed. As part of the renewal process, each team must participate in an exercise demonstrating their ability to respond appropriately to a HAZMAT incident within their response area.
MEI is the PEMA Act 165 HAZMAT Response Team for the following counties in western, Pa.: Armstrong, Clarion, Crawford, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, and Warren. These counties rely on MEI to provide them with a timely, certified, top-quality response to any HAZMAT incident they may face which exceeds the capability of their first responders to handle. MEI contracts with these counties to be at the ready, at at moment’s notice to respond.
Westmoreland County Team 800 HAZMAT Response is a division of the County Department of Public Safety, and is the HAZMAT Response Team for all of Westmoreland County. The capabilities of Team 800 are the same as any other PEMA Act 165 certified HAZMAT Team. Therefore, they must complete the process of re-certification every three years as well. MEI & Team 800 have partnered on many incidents throughout Westmoreland County in the past. So when it came time for both teams to re-certify, it made sense to partner for the exercise.
The exercise was conducted the morning of August 8, 2015 at MEI’s World Headquarters in Apollo, PA. Guests were invited from all counties for which MEI serves as the HAZMAT Response Team, invitations were also sent to the PA DEP’s office of Emergency Response, a select list of MEI clients, MEI employees, local officials, and Westmoreland County officials and employees.
A tractor-trailer attempting to unload waste at a waste disposal facility, accidentally slid down an embankment and spilled hydrochloric acid and chlorine from its trailer. The driver of the truck attempted to exit the vehicle, but was exposed to vapors and became unconscious as he exited the tractor. A cloud of vapors was emitted from the trailer and surrounded the accident.
The first to respond were local police officers from Alleghenty Township, Westmoreland County. In a real-world situation, they would be the first response. After assessing the scene, the officers called for more responders through the local Fire and EMS Services. Allegheny Twp. Volunteer Fire Dept. and Markle Volunteer Fire Company responded along with an ambulance from the Alle-Kiski Valley.
The firemen responded in full personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure their safety while treating the unconscious truck driver and removing him from the area.
After this response and bringing the truck driver to safety, the fire crew wen through the decontamination station to ensure none of them were exposed to the vapors. The decontamination team was made up of MEI and Team 800 professionals.
A medical crew examined the first responders after they went through decontamination. This was a pre-caution that would be utilized during a real-world event. We always want to ensure everyone is okay and no one is suffering from heat stroke/exhaustion or displaying symptoms of exposure.
Once the truck drive was moved to the safe zone and transported for further treatment, the HAZMAT Team rolled into action. HAZMAT was notified to respond by the Fire Company upon their site assessment. HAZMAT Responders donned fully encapsulating protective suits and self contained breathing appartatus (SCBAs) for this response. HAZMAT Teams consisted of one member of the MEI team and one member of Team 800. The buddy system was utilized for all responders to ensure safety at all times. Air monitors near the scene depicted enough displaced oxygen to determine the environment unfit for human occupancy. Hence, the team donned their suits and SCBAs.
The first team slowly approached the truck to assess the scene. They determined that at least two drums were dented/leaking and two chlorine cylinders were upset and possibly leaking. Teams took turns responding to ensure no one was overcome by the heat. In a real-world situation, each HAZMAT group would be in the hot-zone for between 25-40 minutes depending on how much air they used.
As the crew began to examine the overturned drums containing hydrochloric acid, a second crew analyzed the chlorine bottles in the front of the trailer. HAZMAT crews determined there were two leaking chlorine cylinders and two leaking drums. As you can see in the pictures above, the crews rolled the drums to determine where they were leaking. After determining which drums were leaking, HAZMAT crews overpacked the drums and placed Containment Kits (hoods) on the chlorine cylinders. These overpacks and containment kits stopped the leaks and enabled the waste to be transported.
Once the drums were overpacked and the chlorine cylinders contained, the exercise was over.
All participants and guests then returned to MEI’s Training room where a debrief of the exercise was held. All PEMA officials were impressed with the ability for our two HAZMAT teams to partner together on such an exercise. Kudos was awarded for this extraordinary teamwork. Bill Krulac, MEI’s Sr. HAZMAT/ER Coordinator was applauded for his creation and implementation of the exercise. Bill reminded everyone that when you add up the areas both HAZMAT teams cover, it ends up being half of western, PA that is covered by two HAZMAT teams. Over 400,000 people are protected by the response of these teams. That’s pretty significant when you think about it.
This exercise and MEI’s partnership with Team 800 goes to prove our service philosophy-when you need us, we’ll be there. We’ll be there with employees dedicated to providing outstanding service and exceeding expectations and equipment that is second to none. It’s how we maintain our commitment to always be “protecting our environment for tomorrow’s generations.”
For questions about this exercise, please contact Chad McCutcheon at the aforementioned email address.