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It sounds like the latest script from a science fiction movie â€“ men in bright green, full-body jumpsuits search an abandoned warehouse for a dangerous substance leaking into the atmosphere.
But for the Catawba County Emergency Servicesâ€™ HAZMAT team, itâ€™s just another day on the job.
The 35-person crew, comprised of volunteers from area emergency management teams, conducted a training session Thursday to prepare for an evaluation of their services in November.
â€śThis is for us to test our capabilities â€“ our instant command level, our capabilities, everything,â€ť said Ryan Monteith, HAZMAT coordinator for the Catawba County Fire and Rescue Division. â€śThereâ€™s probably going to be some kinks thrown in there that we have to work out.â€ť
The county recently received grant funding to pay for an outside agency evaluation of HAZMAT teamâ€™s response.
â€śThe whole point is for us to get better,â€ť said Catawba County Fire Marshal Mark Pettit. â€śItâ€™s not a pass or fail. No one is going to get in trouble. â€¦ If we ultimately get better (as a result of the funding), it was money well spent.â€ť
The team received a hypothetical scenario prior to Thursdayâ€™s drill, which gave members information about a theoretical chemical spill in a Newton warehouse.
Based on the information provided in the scenario, the HAZMAT team had to decide how to respond to the situation.
They were told that a Newton Police officer smelled a strong odor near a warehouse storing chemicals, and one person remained inside the building.
The HAZMAT crew went through typical protocol for handling the chemical leak, which includes donning protective full-body suits, 30-pound air tanks and heavy-duty boots.
â€śItâ€™s not for the claustrophobic, thatâ€™s for sure,â€ť said Tank Townsend, Hickory Fire Department Training Division captain of the green HAZMAT suits. â€śYouâ€™re totally enclosed in a completely separate environment.â€ť