Grovetown-area residents, motorists and business owners shouldn't be alarmed about sirens and emergency vehicles blocking John Deere Parkway Wednesday morning.
The roads will be blocked as emergency responders train in a full-scale hazardous materials transportation exercise.
"Anytime we train, we always learn something," Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue Chief Doug Cooper said. "You always pick up on something that you can do better. It is a good opportunity for us."
Because of the training, John Deere Parkway, from Wrightsboro Road to Horizon South Parkway, will be closed for several hours beginning early Wednesday morning. Those who have business on the road will be allowed in, but all other traffic will be blocked, said Pam Tucker, Columbia County Emergency and Operations director.
Marquis signs, detour signs and cones will redirect motorists.
The exercise scenario involves a truck carrying a chlorine tank that is diverted off Interstate 20 because of a wreck. In the simulation, the truck will be rammed by a van, injuring 10 volunteer "victims" and causing chlorine to leak.
The training provides a valuable opportunity for emergency responders to prepare for a large-scale hazardous materials incident, Tucker said.
"That is awesome for them," she said. "This could be reality. We just finished a commodity flow study that pointed out to us that we have a risk every single day and night. Around the clock, there is a constant risk of some type of a hazardous materials accident on that interstate or one of our other major roads."
The study showed that chemicals and other dangerous materials frequently travel Columbia County's stretch of interstate, Tucker said.
Though the Martinez-Columbia Hazardous Materials Response Team trains monthly, the exercise offers a unique opportunity to train for large-scale disasters involving numerous agencies, said Operations Officer Battalion Chief Danny Kuhlmann, who oversees the team.
"They do a lot of Haz-Mat training, but this will actually give them a chance to get out and set everything up at once," Cooper said.
The exercise also involves all area hospitals. About 70 participants, many played by John Deere employees, will drive themselves to medical treatment and be sent to a community decontamination center set up near Medical College of Georgia Hospital.
"That's what people did after the Graniteville accident; they all got in their cars," Tucker said, referring to the 2005 Norfolk Southern Corp. train wreck in Graniteville, S.C. The freight train was carrying more than 250 tons of chlorine when it crashed into two locomotives and two rail cars parked on a spur line. The release of deadly gases killed nine people and sent more than 250 to hospitals.
Wednesday's exercise begins at 9 a.m. Anyone wishing to watch should be there by 8:30 a.m.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.