Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger
Photos courtesy of Gale Jameyson
December 17, 2015 7:57 a.m.
Editor’s Note: Our thanks to Gale Jameyson for spending an afternoon with us during the recent hazmat drill held at Rayonier Advanced Materials. His photos captured the activity, team work, and training required to keep our community safe.
Rayonier Advanced Materials, Nassau County Fire Rescue, Fernandina Beach Fire Department (FBFD), and Baptist Medical Center Nassau (BMCN), joined forces on Wednesday, December 9, to conduct a hazmat drill to respond to a simulated hazardous material release at Rayonier’s Fernandina Beach mill.
Although Rayonier conducts regular hazmat safety drills, the impetus for the Wednesday drill was to provide Nassau County Fire Rescue’s Special Hazards Operations Team (SHOT) an opportunity to practice response techniques. NCFR Chief Matt Graves said, “NCFR has never had a Special Hazardous Operations Team. We recognized this deficiency and . . . . established this specialized response team due to the presence of hazardous materials within our County and the need to protect responders, citizens, and visitors in the event of a hazardous materials release.”
The drill began with the arrival of the FBFD. According to Graves, the FBFD “established command, conducted reconnaissance, and rescued one viable victim that was decontaminated and transported to BMCN.” Once BMCN received the victims medical staff practiced their response.
At the Rayonier site, blue “smart dummies,” rescue manikins programmed to interact with rescuers and simulate various injuries, were strategically placed.
Victims and rescuers were hosed down in blue plastic pools in order to collect any contaminated water. Stations were manned to monitor rescuers’ vital signs as they entered and returned from the designated hazmat area.
Rescuers donned their bright blue hazmat suits; not an easy task. With more extensive gear, several rescuers moved toward a rail car designated as the leak source. It was like witnessing former astronaut Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon walk; only in color.
“Having a hazardous materials team requires a number of personnel to be able to function safely and properly. There are many requirements and certifications that are required to be a hazmat technician. Over the last 5 to 8 years, the State of Florida has changed the training and certification requirements for hazmat technicians,” said Ty Silcox, Fernandina Beach Fire Chief who attended the drill.
The City of Fernandina no longer has a hazmat team although Silcox expressed an interest in bringing one back. “We have been working on our Special Operations team which performs high angle rescues and confined space rescues, and this is where we have been placing our focus.”
Rayonier officials including C.A. McDonald, plant manager, were on hand to observe the drill. Robin Mock, safety and health group leader, has been involved in numerous safety drills during her 26 year career in industrial safety. Mock was impressed. “It was exciting to see the newly established Nassau County HazMat team in action. The response from county and city emergency teams was exceptional and greatly appreciated.”