Hazardous materials exercise brings planned chaos to Wood County Courthouse

Hazardous materials exercise brings planned chaos to Wood County Courthouse

BOWLING GREEN, OH (WTOL) - Hazardous material spills can happen at any time and that's why first responders flooded into Wood County on Wednesday.

Next to the Perrysburg Department of Public Utilities building on East Boundary, a mock disaster similar to that was simulated. A CSX train derailed on railroad tracks.

The Perrysburg location remained quiet, but the real action was in the Emergency Operations Center inside the Wood County Courthouse in Bowling Green.

While Perrysburg Fire and Police leaders were on a separate floor, other county agencies simulated the support they would provide in a real disaster.

The training exercise involved two train cars that were leaking two different dangerous chemicals. They had to get a nearby school and rehabilitation center evacuated.

"It adds to the realism of the situation. You're not going to have things planned out. And even if you have plans, you're going to have to deviate from those plans," said Chief Dan Paez of the Perrysburg Police Department.

Wood County EMA Director Brad Gilbert made that happen, by introducing another pretend emergency.

A truck full of pigs crashed on Interstate 75, sending pigs running all over the highway. It was another problem to have to deal with.

"So it was an opportunity for us to experience that and some of the chaos that occurred," Paez said.

Updates were given on the emergency responses, with comments from some participants that said:

"We are running out of portable oxygen on the scene," "We also have CSX on scene, staging at the junior high," and "Signs and symptoms of respiratory distress and chemical exposure."

And while there were some communications issues, EMA Director Gilbert was impressed with the teamwork. He said, "If you don't find something in one of these exercises, you've done it wrong. Because it's all about again, thinking outside the box and we can't think of everything so that's why we exercise."

Something else made it even more challenging for the people involved in the drill. Many of them were working off of little sleep because they were monitoring the severe storms overnight and the possibility of tornadoes.

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