First responders to use fairgrounds for hazmat drill

By Kathy Fox -

Urbana Fire and Police division personnel, as well as other first responders and agencies in the county, will head to the fairgrounds Thursday morning for a hazardous materials drill coordinated by the Local Emergency Planning Committee and evaluated by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

Once in every four-year period, full-scale drills with emergency personnel responding to a hazmat situation must be staged. Multiple law enforcement and fire/EMS groups can be involved, as can be agencies such as the Red Cross, hospitals and others providing medical and shelter assistance. Sometimes members of the community are recruited to play “victims.”

Thursday’s hazmat incident will unfold in a staging area at the fairgrounds that will represent Monument Square. The only impact on Urbana’s real Monument Square may be activities such as mock evaluations and notifications. Traffic will not be affected and downtown businesses have been informed, according to county EMA Director Kip Michael.

Specifics of the hazmat incident will not be known until they occur Thursday. The point is to see how first responders and others react to whatever may occur. After the drill, slated to start at 9 a.m. and be finished by 2 p.m., all participants and Ohio EMA evaluators will discuss what worked and what can be improved. A more complete written evaluation will come later.

“I’m looking forward to it. We’ll learn from our mistakes, if any,” Michael said, adding there will be some new first responders participating. “It will be a learning experience for quite a few people.”

He said it will be a learning experience for him also, since this will be his first full-scale drill since taking over EMA director duties from Craig Evans about a year ago.

Although no longer EMA director, Evans has a key role in Thursday’s drill. Michael said the LEPC is contracting Evans as exercise designer and facilitator through Clark State Community College.

That means Evans created the drill scenario and will be at the fairgrounds to direct the unfolding of events.

By Kathy Fox

Kathy Fox may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext 1773.

Kathy Fox may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext 1773.

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