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Hazmat Team Conducts Drill at American Packaging Corporation

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Rochester: Hazmat Team Conducts Drill at American Packaging Corporation
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Three fire companies consisting of 15 HAZMAT technicians responded to American Packaging Corporation on Driving Park Avenue Friday morning.

The training exercise centered around a rack system holding drums of hazardous chemicals that fell, puncturing one of the drums. In this scenario, a worker was also trapped under a drum.

It's required training for the Rochester Fire Department's HAZMAT unit.

"We use it to prove competency in all of our disciplines. We're required by NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) to be able to do certain things, so this drill annually brings the people out and makes them go through their tasks, makes them do all their documentation and in the end we prove that we're capable," said Lt. Andy Lonthair, Rochester Fire Department.

As technology evolves, drills such as this give firefighters an opportunity to put new equipment into practice.

A device called EntryLink Searchcam was used in this drill. It's a tethered camera that allows those manning the command post to monitor what's happening inside the building.

"It's a huge improvement for safety for us in that the building people can tell people what they're doing, the backup teams can watch what the entry team is doing, the initial people going in so once you go down they'll know exactly where they are," Lonthair said.

American Packaging Corporation is one of 2,300 companies nationwide participating in the OSHA Volunteer Protection Program. This is the first time the facility on Driving Park has taken part in a training exercise with the Rochester Fire Department.

As part of the Volunteer Protection Program, American Packaging employees go through safety training earning certification as one of the safest worksites in America.

"We practice shutting down. We have people trained in chemical defense, which is what this drill was about, called hazwhopers and they learn how to respond and what we do right and what we do wrong. We're a 24-hour facility so part of this is learning what to do on off hours when all the managers aren't here," said Dave Geier, American Packaging Corporation.

With industrial plants like American Packaging throughout Rochester, firefighters must be ready to encounter a variety of hazardous situations.

"We're required to do risk assessments for the community. We have miles of interstate, miles of railroad that go right through downtown Rochester, we have industries that are similar to American Packaging across the city that have an infinite amount of risk. Luckily, we don't have a lot of incidents that are serious," Lonthair said.

Once the drill was complete, HAZMAT techs and American Packaging's chemical defense team held a debriefing session to go over what worked and what didn't. That ensures proper procedures are followed in the event of an actual emergency.

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