While the scene in and around the historic Delaware County Courthouse on Tuesday probably had passersby concerned, the Delaware Area Response Team (DART) had everything under control as members were simply conducting hazardous material (hazmat) training.
The hazmat training, which is coordinated through the Delaware County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (EMA), is a three-day drill that will run through Thursday at the county’s historic courthouse located at 91 N. Sandusky St., Delaware.
“This is an exercise based on practicing hazardous material response procedures utilizing the same equipment used in a real hazardous environment,” said Delaware County EMA Director Sean Miller. “This is not just a local drill. We’ve got representatives from the Ohio National Guard 52nd Civil Support Team which deals with weapons of mass destruction. We also have a private sector observer here from PPG to see how the team will respond to a hazardous material scenario. It’s very collaborative in nature.”
Miller said by having everyone involved, it helps increase awareness of hazmat situations for the individual agencies.
Lieutenant Zach Wolfe, Delaware County Emergency Medical Services, is helping coordinate the three-day exercise with the county EMA. He said there are roughly 20-30 hazmat technicians from around the county that will work through the simulated training.
“We’re focusing on getting the equipment out and training with it,” he said. “We don’t work with these guys on a regular basis because we’re throughout the county. Some of the guys are working together for the first time.”
Wolfe said DART is reworking its current model of specialty teams to be more of a cross-trained model over the next year.
“We’re trying to expand on our capabilities and our knowledge base along with the guys actually getting to work together,” he said. “We don’t know necessarily what to expect or what we’ll be coming into if we have a significant event. We need to train for the unknown and try to figure out the weaknesses in the system and improve them.”
Wolfe said the scenario for the exercise began as a report of a noxious odor causing the skin, eyes, and nose to have a burning sensation. He said the scenario was then escalated to have four patients in need of immediate medical treatment.
“We’ve also changed the focus to chemical identification,” he said.
Wolfe said the Ohio National Guard 52nd Civil Support Team was acting in its capacity as a resource for DART during the exercise.
“These guys are a specialized full-time National Guard unit out of Rickenbacker,” he said. “They are a resource to the local level if we get something that we’re not sure of. We have three of their guys here training with us and helping to build the exercise.”
Wolfe said DART was very fortunate to have the historic courthouse available for the exercise and grateful to the county facilities department for allowing them to use it.
“The building itself is allowing a lot of different difficulties of problems that we have not trained on,” he said. “A multi-floor exercise is something we have not really trained on nor the extrication of patients off of multiple floors. Traditionally, if we do have a hazmat victim, we go down range and bring them back.”
Behind the historic structure, DART set up a yellow decontamination tent at the back door where victims would normally be sprayed down with water. However, Wolfe said given the frigid temperatures, the team decided to hold off using water to decontaminate any of the simulated victims.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.