Looking to the Past for Emergency Management Preparation

According to an article by the Missoulian, a training workshop in Alberton, Montana looked to the past in an effort to prepare first responders for future disasters.

The workshop focussed on how first responders in Alberton handled the massive chlorine spill following the derailment of a Montana Rail Link train in 1996. The incident caused one death, 350 injuries and the need to evacuate over 1000 people from the surrounding area. Response crews were also required to close down an interstate for 19 days, the longest interstate shutdown in U.S. history.

So what lessons did the almost 20-year-old disaster teach response crews?

The first was that having an incident command system in place was a great idea. Due to past wildfires, the fire department already had the command structure necessary to organize the allocation of personnel and equipment to the disaster zone.

This allowed local authorities to remain in control of the situation even when other State and Federal authorities arrived on scene. Ultimately, a type 1 incident was brought under control by a type 3 team.

The second lesson learned by the first responders in Alberton was, that despite all the planning, there will always be things no one can prepare for requiring a flexible response protocol.

Since the chlorine spill occurred during tax season, many of the evacuees were unable to return to their homes to retrieve their records and health officials struggled to develop criteria to determine when they could be let back in their homes.

The final lesson the workshop provided those in attendance was that while conducting evacuations it is important for first responders to not take an authoritative tone with residents, but to instead assure them that they are being helped by local agencies that are looking to help.

The Alberton workshop ran from May 2 to 3.


For a link to the original article, click here: http://missoulian.com/news/local/workshop-uses-alberton-chlorine-spill-to-teach-emergency-management/article_cc01c639-7269-547d-942b-edfb5be6a3a4.html