EAST LIVERPOOL - Calls began coming into the police station as soon as the fire trucks pulled onto Sixth Street Saturday morning in front of City Hall, but, nothing to fear, it was just a test.
Members of the regional hazmat team, the FBI, Homeland Security, a state evaluator, Lifeteam and Tri-County ambulance companies, East Liverpool City Hospital and the city health department converged on the block between Jackson Street and Peach Alley for a hazardous material exercise based on a mock "white powder event."
The first step was to set up a portable weather station that fire Chief Bill Jones explained would monitor the wind direction and speed as well as temperature and humidity, the latter to help keep firefighters safe as they suited up in special hazmat gear that encapsulated them.
Looking not unlike space creatures, members of the regional hazmat team enter East Liverpool City Hall as part of an exercise designed to show how well the recently-formed team does in an emergency situation. (Photo by Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert)
"We have to have a medical team available," Jones emphasized.
City health Commissioner Jelayne Dray and the hospital's infection control Director Julie Dunlop kept in close contact as they monitored the situation, and ambulance personnel took vital sign readings from the hazmat team members.
Members of the team established a perimeter around City Hall with caution tape, also protecting sewage gates and placing a large containment square on the street before anyone entered the building.
As the well-protected firefighters went inside, access to the public including the media ended, with Jones explaining previously that is to keep anyone from seeing the exact procedures that are used in such events so those with sinister plans cannot plan around protective and remediation methods.
Among those watching the operation was city Councilman Sherrie Curtis, but the primary spectator was an exercise designer and evaluator from Charlie Perry and Associates of Cincinnati, who was paid through a grant secured by the county health department.
He will critique the procedures followed during Saturday's drill and rate the hazmat team, which received high scores on its first exercise last year at Ergon in Hancock County, W.Va.