Chocowinity emergency personnel train for catastrophic event
Published 5:33 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2016
CHOCOWINITY — A train wreck Monday evening in Chocowinity had emergency medical personnel and fire fighters planning the best way to handle such a catastrophic situation.
Fortunately, this emergency happened only on paper and was a training exercise devised by Capt. Shane Grier of Chocowinity EMS and Chocowinity Fire Chief Tommy Pendley.
Monday’s event was open to fire and rescue personnel throughout Beaufort County.
“This is a good way for us to practice for major events such as large fires, hurricanes, flooding … any type of mass casualty event,” Grier said.
And while this week’s training exercise was fictional, it was based on a real life train wreck that Grier worked in western North Carolina in the 1990s. The training scenario involved 16 train cars derailed upon collision, with two of them chlorine tank cars that leaked in a small town much like Chocowinity. In the scenario, the local fire department, sheriff’s office and highway patrol answered the call for assistance, while area citizens and emergency personnel were treated for injuries.
The nearly identical actual catastrophe that Grier worked ended up costing around 13 million dollars, he said.
And while local emergency responders hope that they won’t be called upon to handle an emergency of that magnitude, they want to be well trained and prepared if the need arises.
“Tonight’s exercise provides continuing education credits through Beaufort County Community College,” Grier noted. “It’s mandated by the State of North Carolina and the federal government.”
It was a warm up to additional training on a much larger scale planned for Feb. 19-21, according to Grier.
“This was really a precursor to that event,” he said. “That will be a hands-on, live simulation that begins that Friday at 6 p.m. and runs until Sunday at 6 p.m. It’s going to be a multi-agency, multi-county response.”
The event will be staged on the north side of Pamlico River in an area that includes part of Goose Creek State Park.
The scenario next week calls for a group to be placed in the woods, lost and with possible injuries or even death, Grier added.
Grier advised those taking part in that particular training exercise to prepare for sub-freezing temperatures, stressing the necessity of warm clothing and some type of shelter.
“We won’t let anybody go out in the woods without a tarp and some quick-drying clothing,” Grier said.