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Mock Chemical Spill Tests Emergency Response

If you saw some commotion going in Henderson Tuesday, no need to panic. Henderson Memorial Hospital, along with the fire and police departments conducted a "mock chemical spill" to test new equipment and the city's emergency response.          

The scenario of the mock drill was a chemical spill at a local meat packing plant, affecting dozens of workers.  

A "victim," Brenda Boyd says, "It's a desperate situation you know you're in a building there and they're telling you anybody that can walk get out, you can't see, your eyes are burning, you know, I was pregnant."

"We got volunteers from our community to act out symptoms, they've all been given symptoms, and some of them have makeup and different things," says Tracy Cain, Marketing Coordinator for the hospital.

The drill was to safely decontaminate the "victims" using an inflatable decon tent.   The tent has three lanes, two for washing down people who can walk, and one for washing down people who can't. The whole thing can be inflated in just 90 seconds.

Debbie Sipes, a member of the Decon Team says, "In the past, we've had to wait for decon teams from Louisiana and other places and so we can help people quicker this way."

Organizers say because there are several large plants surrounding Henderson and because there's big traffic star, it makes scenarios like this one more probable.  

"That's why we wanted to do something realistic and prepare for that," says Angela Riley, Director of Emergency Preparedness at Henderson Memorial Hospital.

Once the drill is done, monitors will critique and evaluate the team's performance.  

Sandra Small, Coordinator for Infection Control says, "We did see some strengths that we had, we also found several different areas that we can improve on. I think that's what you always try to do when you're doing drills is find the areas that you can continually try to work on."

A drill, organizers say, has prepared them for the real thing..."It can happen any day, any second."

Organizers say the response time was 15 minutes.  That's from when crews got the call to the first member suited up.

The drill was aimed at testing the Decon Team and the ER. But this Spring, Henderson Memorial is planning to conduct a hospital-wide emergency drill.

Tracy Watler/Reporting:

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