Emergency Responders Train For The Worst - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Emergency Responders Train For The Worst

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COLUMBIA FALLS - Did you hear the hubbub over in Columbia Falls? FBI, Hazmat, and the Department of Health swarmed the old aluminum plant.

No worries this time, though, it was just a drill.

You wander into a strange place while playing hide and seek and you see some mysterious white powder in what looks like a lab. It could be anything: cocaine, arsenic, or powdered sugar. Calling 911 will probably bring in the big guns. Luckily, Kalispell has its own regional hazmat team, and Flathead county has a type three Incident Management Team that can come up with a plan of attack.

We have the manpower, but Thursday they learned how to use it.

"That local community has got to be able to trust and know that there's a organization or a resource capability that they can call on when things get out of hand," explained Todd Chance with U.S. Army North. He's part of a group out of San Antonio, Texas that helps emergency responders train for catastrophic events.

The state's civil support team out of Helena also joined in the full scale drill.

"We always tell people the time to get to know someone is not at the scene of an incident," said Cindy Mullaney, the deputy director of Flathead county's Office of Emergency Management.

Going in and finding out if it's dangerous is not a grab and go kind of thing. These guys have to go through a medical exam before they can even put on about 40 pounds of equipment. Inside the air tight suits, it can get hotter than a 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

When they come out they have to be hosed off and scanned for toxins and other bad stuff before they can unzip.

The Kalispell crew can send in about two to three waves before they need to call on backup from a support team.

"We work with incident management teams and emergency managers from all over the western side of the U.S. The incident management team that is here in Kalispell is absolutely one of the best that we've ever worked with," said Chance.

Montana has six hazmat teams spread around the state.

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