A chemical spill calls emergency responders to the ASU campus

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)-Tuesday marked the second day of FEMA's National Level Exercise earthquake drill.

Day two had two different scenarios taking place at Arkansas State University.

A train derailment with some type of unknown chemical has developed a leak.

In addition, a number of people were exposed to the chemical and a decontamination area was put into place by hazmat.

Director of Craighead County Office of Emergency Management, David Moore, says in an event like this the Jonesboro Fire Department would take the lead.

"During a real world event like this the Jonesboro Fire Department would be extended additional help. So, we brought in the Arkansas National Guard 61st civil support team. They deal with hazardous materials, biological and they have some wonderful assets that they can bring to the table. And so, we brought them in to work with us today and they're going to identify the chemical."

The coordinator for Arkansas State University Regional Training Center for Disaster Preparedness, Dr. Deborah Persell, says she was thrilled when she first heard the university would be participating in the exercise.

"These drills are done in order to exercise our plans and sort of push us to the point where we find out what we need to fix. And so, we've done a lot of things right and we're discovering some things we would like to do differently."

Persell says it's not every day you get the opportunity to practice your emergency plan in such an elaborate way.

"I was excited when I heard we were going to do this because this is an unprecedented opportunity for the university to get to participate in a national drill and to exercise our plans at this level."

Moore says it's critical that everyone who would be involved in such a situation get to familiarize themselves with each other.

"It's of the utmost importance that everybody comes to the table and works together. If we don't, if we do our own planning and know what we're going to do, nobody else knows what we're doing."

Persell says that's why it's so important the university get to participate in the drill.

"If you don't do practices like this, if you don't drill or exercise and then there's a real disaster and you've never talked to each other or worked with each other before then the chaos that ensues at just trying to figure out who does what, while you're doing that lives are in the balance."

Persell says these drills make it possible for everyone to skip the question of who does what and begin working efficiently.

Moore says it's important in the event of a true disaster that everyone be on the same page.

"By bringing all these different organizations together, then emergency management knows what hazmat is going to do, knows what ASU is going to do. We bring the 61st Civil Support Team in and the players see what they can bring to the table. They can see what assets are available from the National Guard."

Moore says once the drill is complete, everyone will sit down and discuss what they encountered.

"The whole purpose of this exercise is to find out what didn't work and what can be improved. After we get done, today, we're going to assess our work, what we did and then we're going to go forward and start changing our plans and making things better."

Persell says the days exercise was difficult, but worth it.

"It's a challenge, but it's the kind of challenge we need in order to do our jobs better."

For information about the National Level Exercise 2011, click onto their website.

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