VAN VLEET, Miss. (WTVA) — It's a training exercise like no other as firefighters in Chickasaw County dressed up Saturday in protective gear and executed a plan when it comes to decontaminating people.
The exercise was part of an effort to train firefighters on how to handle hazardous materials.
"This is an opportunity for them to get their equipment out, practice their capabilities to work together as a team," adds Mike Burns, exercise support coordinator. "We've given them a scenario, and it allows them to plan to work through the process."
When it comes to firefighters and first responders in a rural community like Van Vleet, exercises like this are of the utmost importance because they may only have to respond to a situation like this once every five to ten years.
"Maybe not even that often, and again, that is the purpose of doing this from time to time is to be able to practice those skills," says Burns. "Many have never had to do this."
When it comes to dealing with hazardous materials, multiple agencies are involved.
Communication and understanding what to do and what not to do can be the difference of saving someone's life as well as their own life.
"We also have to treat this somewhat as a criminal scene," adds Burns. "We have to start from process, going through the process to where they're actually decontaminating them, cleaning people off, collecting the evidence, maintaining security around it and sending them to the hospital if they need to."
The training exercise was made possible through a grant from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation.