A few weeks after some residents of Bayonne questioned whether the city could handle a gas line explosion similar to one that recently occurred in California, local emergency personnel were put to the test, and the Bayonne Emergency Response Commission and the Local Emergency Planning Committee called for a drill that brought together the fire departments for International Matex Tank and Terminal (IMTT) and the Bayonne Fire Department at IMTT’s Hook Road property.
Bayonne Fire Chief Greg Rogers said the drill was held in compliance with the U.S. EPA Risk Management Program and the NJDEP (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection), providing an opportunity for the facility and the response agencies to exercise emergency practices. They are required to conduct such a test at least once a year.
“Cooperation between industry and various agencies in such drills is a vital part in ensuring all are properly trained and prepared to respond to situations we hope will never happen.” – Richard Fisette, IMTT Manager
“This year’s drill fortified interagency communication, coordination, and mitigation practices, and involved three separate simultaneous incidents,” Rogers said. “A mock tank fire and foam operation, a mock rail car incident, and a mock safety and security event were all handled under the joint efforts of the multiple agencies involved.”
Ready, set, go
The mock drill, initiated by a piercing siren blast at the facility, started at 9:20 a.m., and continued until noon.
“Cooperation between industry and various agencies in such drills is a vital part in ensuring all are properly trained and prepared to respond to situations we hope will never happen,” said Richard Fisette, IMTT manager.
A chemical company, IMTT is one of 25 facilities in Northern New Jersey the state office of Homeland Security considers vulnerable, and the plan would provide a layer of response in case of a large disaster.
“A successful drill is one that validates training and tactics and identifies material gaps,” said Michael Morganti, IMTT-Bayonne Fire Brigade chief. “The annual drill is a testing experience for each of the 120 responders and 14 participating agencies. It bundles up the many hours spent training and attending continuing education courses and places the responders in challenging real world probable situations that are difficult and stressful, where the outcomes are evaluated sometimes with great success. Sometimes it identifies where improvements are needed in training, education or tactics.”
He continued, “It is these experiences that foster professional growth within and among the participants that moves us towards our ultimate goal – safety of our community. We will be working with our BERC stakeholders throughout the year to improve our response plans, training, and equipment needs and test those improvements in the 2011 drill.”
These drills help improve emergency response times and provide practice for communicating with first responders for quick and safe patient evacuation techniques.
Five years ago, IMTT and other plants in New Jersey worked out safety agreements with the state that would help them follow stricter guidelines regarding safety, using the American Chemistry Council safety standards as a base. New Jersey is third in the country for chemical production, with two of the eight facilities located in Hudson County – IMTT in Bayonne and Kuehne in Kearny.
Two years ago, the federal and state Department of Homeland Security set up a new master response plan for Northern New Jersey that coordinates state response to large scale emergencies.
“The Bayonne Fire Department, every year, partners with IMTT and all the participating response agencies for a large scale drill,” Rogers said. “These mock emergency drills offer us an opportunity to improve our skills, pool our resources, and effectively manage large-scale multi-agency response operations.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.