HOUSTON – When you see the men in the yellow suits, it’s not normally a good day.
But May 20 will be a good day for the Houston Fire Department and the Chickasaw County Emergency Management Agency to host a hazardous material drill on Harrington Street.
“We wanted to inform the public ahead of time about what is going on,” said Linda Griffin director of the Chickasaw County Emergency Management Agency. “The public is welcome to watch, but we do take this training serious and just ask they stay out of the way.”
Griffin said in the event of a real hazardous material drill, the public would be kept far away from the site.
“If you do ever see the men in the yellow suits, you need to find out what is going on and the proper way to protect yourself,” said Griffin. “In any kind of HazMat incident, knowledge is power.”
Monday’s drill will see EMA and the Houston Fire Department suit-up and respond to a simulated hazardous material accident. A special decontamination tent will also be set up to initially treat and decontaminate “victims.”
“There are a lot of hazardous materials in factories around here and they can be found in trucks that ride up and down our highways every day,” said Capt. Jonathan Blankenship, of the Houston Fire Department. “A key part of this drill is teaching our guys how to protect themselves when they go to help someone who has been contaminated.”
Blankenship also pointed out victims have to be decontaminated before they can be transported to a hospital.
“If you put someone in an ambulance that has not been decontaminated and send them to the hospital, that ambulance crew and that ambulance have to be taken out of service until it is decontaminated and made safe,” said Blankenship. “If a contaminated person is rushed into an emergency room, you could be forced to close the emergency room down and decontaminate all your doctors and nurses, equipment and rooms.
“In a real emergency, those are the last things you want to see happen,” he added.
And teaching firefighters how to use the yellow suits is also part of the training.
“Those suits have to be put on properly and our guys need to know what they can and can’t do in those suits,” said Blankenship. “If they are comfortable in those suits and know the limitations of their equipment, they can be much more effective.”
Monday’s drill will start at 6:30 p.m. and should wrap up about dark.