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Arkansas Air Guard trains local fire departments September 7, 2009

Posted by scmla in Drill Report.

This should also qualify as a Drill Report, but since the name of the drill is withheld, I’ll post the article instead. Notice the list of agencies involved: Arkansas National Guard, Lawrence County Office of Emergency Management, local sheriffs, three local fire departments, and even the Mayor. — Silver

Arkansas Air Guard trains local fire departments

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark., (9/2/09) — A C-130 and crew from the 189th Airlift Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard provided a new wrinkle in hazardous materials response training for members of the Walnut Ridge, Pocahontas and Paragould fire departments on Sept. 1 here at the Walnut Ridge Airport.

Lt. Col. Dean Martin, pilot of the aircraft, said the scenario for the training was that the Guard C-130 reported a hydraulic leak and made a hard landing at the Walnut Ridge Airport.
During the hard landing a drum of a hazardous chemical being transported by the aircraft was overturned in the cargo hold and was leaking. The caustic vapors from the chemical quickly overcame the crew and resulted in skin blisters and respiratory distress.

About 30 members from the various fire departments as well as the Walnut Ridge Police and Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scenario at the airport.

Within 30 minutes, the Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) team sent their first team of responders into the aircraft to determine the type and severity of the chemical leak, the amount of chemical onboard the aircraft and to assess the condition of crewmembers.

“Our primary objective was first to determine what the chemical was, how much had spilled and how serious the casualties might be for the crewmen of the aircraft,” said Alan Haskins, chief of the Walnut Ridge Fire Department and the incident commander for the exercise. “Once the first team radioed the situation we knew we had to get the crewmen out and to immediate medical attention.”

Although just for training, the HAZMAT team thought better of the situation and called for some specialized assistance in helping identify and contain the chemical aboard the aircraft. Chief Haskins called for the Guard’s 61st Civil Support Team from Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, which aids first responders in identifying, containing and mitigating the dangers and damage of such incidents.

“Partnering with the military on training like this is very beneficial for our guys in learning how to work around, enter and deal with the hazards of the aircraft,” said Haskin. “We learn what to touch and what not to touch. How to enter, or if necessary, where to cut into the aircraft if we have to cut in to rescue crewmembers from some situation.”

Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers echoed Haskin’s emphasis on the value of the training for the local firefighters. “This training gives everyone involved experience working together, learning each other’s techniques and procedures in the event something like this really does occur,” she said. “Having that experience and familiarity with the aircraft can make a big difference for first responders.”

The Air Guard was eager to provide the aircraft and facilitate the training request since it utilizes the airfield as a night-vision approach training field for its instructor pilot training program.

“The Air Guard sees these training events as furthering our partner relationship with the community of Walnut Ridge,” said Martin. “They allow us to use the field for night-vision training, so it is important that we assist them when we can with valuable training like this that really benefits both organizations.

“We’ve worked with local authorities several times since we began using the Walnut Ridge Airport for night operations nearly a year ago. And we look forward to planning future training opportunities with them.”

After the serious portion of the HAZMAT exercise was complete, the aircrew opened the C-130 and gave the firemen a tour of the aircraft and explained critical aspects of the airframe to the group.

Lawrence County Office Of Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Jones said the day’s objectives were accomplished. “We (wanted) to get everyone together, work through mitigating the hazard and rescuing the crewmen, and we took away some good lessons learned.”

Jones added that he would like to plan at least one exercise annually involving the Guard so that all the players get familiar with the military and how to work together effectively.



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