April 26, 2006
Town Pro-Active In Emergency Preparedness
In the event of a hazardous material emergency, rest assured, Riverhead is prepared.
|Independent / Lisa Finn
Paraco Gas Corporation hosted the largest emergency response training and railroad tank car presentation ever offered to emergency responders and the fire services in the New York metropolitan area last Saturday. (click for larger version)|
Over 70 participants turned out during Saturday's rainy, cold weather to engage in a Haz-Mat preparedness drill involving emergency response agencies that serve the Town of Riverhead.
The drill, which simulated a series of emergency situations involving hazardous materials, was attended by members of the Riverhead, Jamesport, Flanders, Wading River, and Manorville fire departments, as well as members of the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corp, the Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services, the Town of Riverhead Fire Marshal, and Haz-Mat teams from Southampton and Brookhaven towns and Brookhaven National Laboratory.
"This important emergency preparedness exercise will ensure that the local emergency response agencies are effectively trained to respond to a Haz-Mat incident," said Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale. "I applaud the Riverhead Fire Department for coordinating this important exercise and all other emergency response groups for their participation."
The drill had the financial backing of the New York and Atlantic Freight Railroad and the Paraco Gas Corporation. It was preceded by a series of three evening training sessions for firefighters, in addition to classroom training on the morning of the event.
Bill Sanok, public information officer for the Riverhead Fire Department, explained that with more residents moving to the area, there is an increased use of grills and propane. He stressed that drills are imperative so emergency personnel know how to react in times of crisis. "We need to know how to deal with the situation so we can minimize damage to life and property," he said.
Sanok remembers a night 40 years ago when a tanker car flipped over in Riverhead. Such tragedies, he said, are always a possibility, and the only way to prevent disaster is to be prepared. A command center is critical. "The biggest problem when dealing with any emergency is communication."
During times of crisis, it's imperative to know how to deal with the initial confusion and panic, said Sanok. Drills and training minimize the mishandling of an emergency situation. He added that since that major event 40 years ago, there have been very few accidents, "because people are trained in what to do in the event of an emergency."
On hand at the drill was Matt Larabee, an instructor for propane emergency response training who'd traveled from New Lebanon, New York for the event. "Any time you transfer liquid propane, it's a dangerous situation," he warned.
Bruce Johnson, Riverhead fire marshal, said the drill was crucial because in the last year alone, the area had seen a "significant increase" in the number of hazardous emergency calls received, totaling approximately 23 calls. "Because of that number, we're trying to increase preparedness to handle an emergency. This drill was a golden opportunity," he said.
Johnson said that after national disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, it was important not to "lose focus" and to remember the seriousness of other potential disasters.
The drill was the first of its kind in the area in the last five years, he added.
Mike DiGiorgio, director of transportation of and safety for Paraco, said the facility was one of only three on Long Island with the capability necessary to conduct such a drill.
Cardinale applauded the efforts of all involved with the drill. "I feel safer already," he said.