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First Responders Stage Massive Disaster Drill In San Diego

— Emergency responders throughout San Diego County were put to the test today as part of a statewide disaster exercise. At Qualcomm Stadium, crews practiced treating people exposed to a chemical spill.

Aired 5/17/12 on KPBS News.

Emergency responders throughout San Diego County were put to the test today as part of a statewide disaster exercise. At Qualcomm Stadium, crews practiced treating people exposed to a chemical spill.

Crews from Escondido and Heartland Fire decontaminate a "victim" from a mock chemical spill in a temporary unit in the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot.
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Above: Crews from Escondido and Heartland Fire decontaminate a "victim" from a mock chemical spill in a temporary unit in the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot.

Fire crews from Escondido and La Mesa set up shop in the Qualcomm parking lot. They created a mini treatment center that could care for hundreds of people an hour in the event of a calamity.

Nick Vent, emergency response supervisor with the County Department of Environmental Health, said the teams performed well.

"Everything you see here today, we set up in under 30 minutes when we got on site, and we weren't rushing; we were training people how to do it," Vent said. "So we had everything up and functional in less than 30 minutes."

The first stop for disaster victims was a greenhouse-like structure called a mass decontamination vehicle. Inside, crews wearing hazmat suits were equipped with scrub brushes and hoses.

The county's Brad Long said crews are trained to decontaminate people in a matters of minutes.

"When the victim is brought into the tent, they carefully remove their clothing, and the majority of the contamination is removed once we remove their clothing," he said. "And then they start to wash, rinse, and wash the person again, front and back, top to bottom."

Afterward, patients would be brought to another area for more treatment.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts said first responders are well-trained to handle disasters including earthquakes. But he added local residents need to prepare, too.

"You need to have a plan, OK? Think about it, and then have a kit," Roberts said.

Information on how to put together an emergency kit is available at on the county's website.

Comments

Avatar for user 'CCsafetyguy'

CCsafetyguy | May 17, 2012 at 9:45 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

It certainly is appropriate to use drills and other means to prepare for possible emergency situations such as a hazardous chemical spill/release, given that such releases/spills happen virtually every day in the U.S. Fortunately for us all, the vast majority of these are minor in nature, but this does not diminish the very real dangers posed by hazardous chemicals. The LEPC, hazmat organizations and local industries that create, use, store and/or transport hazardous chemicals should consider exploring the use of commercially available technologies (software and hardware) that specifically deal with chemical releases and allow emergency management and response personnel to not only run real-world simulations but also to more effectively respond to a real chemical emergency. A good article to read is 10 Things You Should Know Before Buying Hazmat/Chemical Emergency Technologies, written by Chris Cowles and published in EHS Today by Penton Media November 30, 2011.

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