HAZMAT Exercise Benefits Responders And Citizens Of Benton County, AR

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Release date: 
October 20, 2000
Release Number: 
Scene of CHER-CAP exercise scene in Gravette, AR.
Scene of CHER-CAP exercise scene in Gravette, AR. FEMA News Photo

Scene of CHER-CAP exercise scene in Gravette, AR.
Scene of CHER-CAP exercise scene in Gravette, AR. FEMA News Photo

After months of planning, training and exercising together, emergency responders in Benton County Arkansas got the opportunity to test their skills during a full-scale mass casualty Hazardous Materials exercise on October 7.

Benton County was selected to participate in FEMA's Comprehensive HazMat Emergency Response- Capability Assessment Program (CHER-CAP) based on the HazMat potential in the area. The actual exercise was held in the Benton County community of Gravette. Although Gravette is a small rural community, it has a railroad track that runs through the middle of the town; effectively dividing the town in half. Approximately 30 trains travel through Gravette daily, many of which carry highly toxic hazardous materials. This situation was the basis of the exercise scenario.

The exercise simulated a school bus filled with children, which crashed into a rail car carrying a hazardous material. Student volunteers from local schools performed excellently as accident victims who had to be removed from the bus by the Northwest ArkansasHazMat Team. The number of victims, almost 30 in all, compounded the situation as responders were faced with not only containing the hazardous release, but also rescuing and decontaminating the victims. Participants from fire departments, law enforcement agencies, and EMS services from across Benton County responded to the incident, which provided an excellent opportunity to practice and strengthen mutual aid agreements with one another. In addition, the American Red Cross was on hand to provide relief for the emergency workers, just as they would do in a real incident.

This exercise was observed and evaluated by a team of peer evaluators. The peer evaluators are made up of emergency response professionals from communities within Region VI. All of the evaluators have participated in a CHER-CAP exercise prior to being an evaluator and recognize the importance of the program. The evaluators and exercise participants gathered at a "hot wash" debriefing immediately following the exercise and presented a brief summary of the exercise. While a formal report of the exercise will be compiled and forwarded to the community at a later date, all involved agreed that the experience gained from participating in the exercise will be useful in any disaster situation and was an invaluable opportunity for Benton County.

If your community is interested in conducting a CHER-CAP exercise or for more information on the program, please contact your State Training Officer for details.

Last Updated: 
July 19, 2012 - 23:02
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