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County simulates hazmat emergency to train

By Victoria Sanchez, KEYT NewsChannel 3 Anchor/Reporter, victoriasanchez@keyt.com
Published On: Apr 18 2013 08:12:36 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 18 2013 08:32:05 PM CDT

Emergency Response Drill

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. -

To prepare for emergencies like the kind the country has seen this week, Santa Barbara County held a response drill on Thursday.

It was all hands on deck as emergency crews responded to a simulated hazardous material spill.

The call came in just after 9 a.m.

"We would advise there is a vehicle accident involving anhydrous ammonia truck trailer leaking vapor clouds traveling south upward Highway 101. Respond on command six, TAC 7," said the dispatcher over the radio.

The drill included simulated toxic vapors leaking at the Exxon Las Flores Canyon Facility.

Firefighters were sent first and the emergency operations center was activated.

It was only a drill but was taken very seriously.

"If inhaled, it causes severe swelling and can compromise respiratory function," said Dr. Takashi Wada at the Emergency Operations Center.

"What we're tying to do is exercise so we can be prepared for future incidents such as this and even different incidents," said Chandra Wallar, county chief executive officer and acting EOC director.

Representatives from county departments put on a different hat during emergencies and everyone has a job.

When new information comes in, everyone is told including the public.

"In particular, focusing on what are we doing about it, what's our response, what the actions that we're taking in response to the emergency," explained Dennis Bozanich, incident public information officer.

Out at the scene, first responders simulated evacuations.

"We're also simulating that we have some victims in the area that need to be decontaminated, treated and transported to the hospital for treatment," said Battalion Chief Mike Patarak, Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Everyone worked together to make sure when the real thing happens, they are ready.

There will be a debriefing to find out what went right, what went wrong and how the country can do better during future emergencies.

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