Hazmat crews respond to calls of a hazardous material spill at the State Public Health Laboratory in Jefferson City as part of a training exercise.
The scheduled drill is the first of this magnitude at the hospital’s new facility. Emergency responders from a half dozen agencies set up operations in front of the hospital, as a few volunteer laboratory employees demonstrated how to go through a decontamination line; consisting of two huge tents that could handle dozens of people at a time.
Meantime, responders went to work inside the laboratory.
“Entry people are in the building now trying to find out what the chemical was. They’re doing their testing right now as they come out they’ll report that to the science officer and we’ll go from there,” said Bill Farr with Cole County Emergency Management.
“You just never know what comes in through the lab across the state it could be anything from rabid animals to biohazard diseases, it all comes here,” Farr said.
Assistant Laboratory Director Mary Menges says new the facility, opened in 2007, was designed with that in mind.
“We have the latest technical safety precautions. If there was a release, it would not go outside of this building it would be contained in this building and we have spent millions of dollars to assure that,” Menges said.
It’s equipped with special air handling equipment and other backup emergency procedures
During the drill, the emergency crews responded to calls of a powdery white substance inside the building, and practiced the process of identifying the material. Meantime, one employee was even taken to the hospital as part of the drill, to help make it representative of how the process might actually play out.
“It’s more real-time than taking pictures or slides and saying this is what (the employees) should do,” Farr said.