Agencies to practice response to derailment, chemical spill

RIVERSIDE – Firefighters and other public safety personnel across Riverside County will test their ability to swiftly and effectively respond to a massive chemical spill triggered by a train derailment next week.

The Countywide Hazmat Operations Group – CHOG – will be drilling on the morning of March 28 outside the city’s Emergency Operations Center at 3085 Lawrence St.

According to Riverside Fire Department Division Chief Mitch Wesche, about 80 first responders will be on hand to simulate responding to a “rail car/chemical identification scenario.”

“All participants will be dressed in hazmat suits and firefighter gear,” Wesche said. “Rescue personnel from area emergency response agencies will assess the dangers of the situation and then mitigate punctures in the tanker.”

According to Wesche, first responders will react to a “dangerous release” of ethanol and chlorine gas.

“Joint exercises such as these are an excellent opportunity to increase regional coordination and for agencies to become familiar with each other’s resources and capabilities,” he said.

The CHOG simulation will include teams from the Corona, Hemet and Riverside fire departments; personnel from the Riverside County Environmental, Public Health and Sheriff’s departments; Riverside police officers, members of the California Air National Guard; and FBI agents.

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