Emergency responders train for a chlorine emergency

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) -There is a lot of chlorine involved in the production of fresh drinking water.

Large amounts of chlorine escaping from storage tanks could have dangerous even fatal results. Fire departments must train constantly to prepare for an accident.

Judging by the drill I was at today, the Paragould Fire Department is more than ready.

Liquid chlorine comes in big steel tanks like the ones at the Paragould water treatment plant.

The treatment plant keeps up to 4 thousand pounds and the chemical is hundreds of times stronger than pool chlorine and very dangerous.

Water plant supervisor Robert Ring says affects on humans can be very severe starting with chlorine burn induced pneumonia and worse.

Ring, "Makes them bleed into their lungs, it would cause severe respiratory distress. It would destroy any mucus membrane and it forms and acid and upsets the PH."

Using a test bottle of powdered chlorine, Ring set off the chlorine alarm.

At first a huge fan started up, called a scrubber it takes the fumes out of the room into a car-sized charcoal tank.

Ring says a chlorine leak is very unlikely. "Extremely remote, we have a lot of safeguards in place. Anything is possible so that's why we always do our drills."

Shortly after the alarm was sent in the PFD, Greene County Rescue and medics from AMMC gathered near the plant and began to set up a decontamination station and suit up to make access.

Assistant Fire Chief Danny Rogers says his firefighters train like they would actually work.

Rogers, "The way everything feels, the way everything looks is different with the suits and so it's pretty important that you actually train with the suits themselves."

The scenario is a liquid leak from a tank represented by a simulator which is actually the very front cap of a tank.

Rogers, "Gives us an opportunity to simulate 4,5,6, different scenario leaks and it's just invaluable to us."

After "victims" were removed and decontaminated. Fire fighters used a "B" kit, a specialized kit made for the size of tank they have at the plant,  to close off the leak.

Chief Rogers says the Paragould Fire Department places great emphasis on Haz-Mat training.

Rogers, "Everybody on our entire department is trained to the Haz-Mat technician level which is the highest level of Haz-Mat training. That enables us to qualify for grants to get the specialized equipment that other departments may not have. It's great for our citizens to have this resource in case of a worse-case scenario."

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.