Jacksonville, Springfield Fire Departments Hold Joint Training on Anhydrous Emergencies

By Jeremy Coumbes on October 17, 2023 at 11:40am

The dangers of anhydrous ammonia leaks were the focus of a joint training held at the Morgan County Fairgrounds Monday.

Members of the Jacksonville Fire Department, and Springfield Fire Department’s HazMat Team spent the day working together on scenarios practicing skills on how to properly deal with anhydrous ammonia leaks.

Jacksonville Firefighters practice knocking down an anhydrous cloud from a ruptured tank and pulling a victim to safety during a joint training with the Springfield Fire Department at the Morgan County Fairgrounds Monday afternoon.

Jacksonville Fire Department Chief Doug Sills says, the training exercise has been in the works for about a year and helps in his department’s tech rescue operations status. “We’re only allowed to operate to a certain level. We’re an operations-level department.

There is quite the possibility that an incident would escalate beyond our level, so it’s good to get Springfield Fire over here because they are a technician level and see how we can mesh the two together for a typical operation where we would both be involved. So we know what to set up, what to expect, and how our operations can support their operations once they get on scene.”

Brice McCormick (center) watches as members of the Springfield Fire Department HazMat Team train on an anhydrous leak scenario.

Brice McCormick with the Springfield Fire Department HazMat response team says the Springfield Fire Department serves as the regional response team at the technician level and the joint training was a great opportunity for both departments, not just to practice their skills, but also in getting to know each other.

The number one goal, which was met when we first got here, was the crews that operate on the same shift schedule would meet each other, know each other, and have an understanding of what capabilities they can expect and what they shouldn’t expect coming when Springfield arrives on scene with Jacksonville and when Jacksonville calls Springfield to come in.

So there’s that mutual understanding, and that people aren’t meeting each other for the first time on an emergency scene when it’s chaotic, probably in the middle of the night and the weather is never great. So today was wonderful. Beautiful weather, there’s no pressure, everybody got to spend the day together and get to meet each other and build a good working relationship.”

The training was timely following the deadly crash on Highway 40 near Teutoplolis, in which a tanker carrying 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia was ruptured killing five people.

Jacksonville/Morgan County ESDA Director Phil McCarty says from his office’s perspective, the joint training was vital for knowing the resources neighboring communities have and what to expect should an emergency occur.

The industry is safe. I really do believe this industry is safe with the hundreds of thousands of gallons that are transported through our communities every day. You know, we have to be prepared for all the hazards and this goes a long way to help that.”

Prarieland FS provided a truck and trailer combination which served as the training scenario in which an operator had become incapacitated due to a leak in the tank.

Also involved in the operation was the Growmark anhydrous display bottle, which is a full semi-trailer tank with cutaways inside so that first responders can see up close how the system works and properly handle an emergency.

Whalen Trucking of Waverly also brought two semi-tanks to the training so crews could learn the different types of control systems they could run into.

The training also gave the Jacksonville Police Department’s aerial drone team the opportunity to get some flight time in on their new drone and show how it can be used to help firefighters during different fire or emergency situations by having an eye and thermal camera in the sky.