It was only a test.
Columbia County officials wanted to see how various agencies would respond to a chlorine leak. Officials said they responded exactly like they were hoping to.
More than a dozen agencies made their way to the Harlem Wastewater Treatment Plant on Thursday to put on a hazardous material exercise.
City of Harlem workers Chris Carroll and Reginald Ford served as the Guinea pigs by allowing themselves to be overtaken by smoke representing chlorine fumes.
After the alarm was sounded, officials setup a command post, blocked several roads and sent in the Columbia County Hazardous Materials Team, who arrived 15 minutes later.
Once they set up their tent, team members jumped into their protective suits and made their way to the victims. By 10:25 a.m., Ford was in the ambulance getting treatment and Carroll was being put onto a transport board.
Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker said the Hazardous Materials Team gained valuable experience from the exercise.
"When you have a chemical release, you aren't going to have people rushing in with sirens," Tucker said. "They have to make sure they are properly outfitted before they can help anyone."
While officials were responding to the chlorine spill, residents were being told of the drill by phone. Tucker said every resident within a 0.7 mile radius received a call explaining what was occurring and what they should do if a real incident occurs.
"We just want to make sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency," Tucker said. "That includes the residents. Some of them will get home today and find a message on their answering machines."
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