Emergency drill puts response skills to the test

If you were in Columbus, WI early Saturday, you may have thought an incident or emergency was going on at Columbus Chemical Industries Inc.

There was no emergency, just a pretend one.

Thirteen emergency response agencies from Columbia and Dodge county got together for a full-scale hazardous materials exercise.

It wasn't the first time decontamination and hazmat have been at the chemical plant.

After a fire at the plant in 2009, they know how important an good emergency response is for the safety and well being of anyone involved.

"The fire is something, of course, that we don't want repeated. So we're working extra hard to make sure it doesn't," said Dennis Hatfield, the Columbus Chemical Industries Inc. Regulatory Manager

It's the main reason all these people got together for the day's exercise.

"About 8:44 Star chemical... was hit by a strong force of wind," says the pretend press release from the event.

The scenario left victims in the chemical plant after a tornado. Exposing hazardous waste and hurting those inside.

"Help!" victims yelled limping out of the building full of costume wounds and blood.

It would be easy to mistake this all as real.

"It feels very real and you want it real," said Hatfield.

Of course, as authentic as possible will help if the real thing happened.

"How slow it was... because they have to plan a lot more than just coming in and getting you," said one victim, reacting to what surprised him with the event.

Now that the drill has ended, emergency responders are able to see what improvements need to be made to their response -- something that wouldn't happen without this 100 person exercise.

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