UPDATE: Emergency drill prepares Bradley County first responders for hazmat situation
Cleveland and Bradley County emergency officials held an emergency drill Friday at the Olin plant in Charleston.
An emergency exercise is preparing Bradley County first responders for any hazmat situation they may encounter.
In September, they had to jump into action for an explosion at Wacker Chemie in Charleston.
On Friday, emergency crews practiced two scenarios at the nearby Olin plant as part of an annual drill. They had to stop a chemical leak and rescue a worker.
Some of the first responders wore orange vests for the training. They are the safety officers who make sure crews are following all procedures.
A command post was also set up to relay information.
"The purpose of these drills is to find those small deficiencies that we can tweak and make it better. Make that response better," Jerry Johnson, the operations officer said.
The county's office of emergency management is trying to reach more people with their alert system.
Johnson said he learned that many neighbors near the plants have more landlines than cell phones. They also sent out a text message while Walker Valley High School and Charleston Elementary practiced a shelter-in-place response.
The drill is not in response to the explosion at Wacker. Johnson mentioned members from the plant's fire department were there to evaluate their procedures.
By law, he said chemical plants like Olin have to conduct training exercises each year. It helps crews prepare and coordinate for when a real emergency happens.
"If we don't come up here and our guys don't see their guys work, their guys don't see our guys work, when we show up, it's kind of a mess. Because we do this every year, our guys get integrated in their team, their guys get integrated in our teams and they work seamlessly," Johnson said.
To close out the call, they would decontaminate the site and send anyone who needs medical treatment to the hospital.
For people living in Charleston, there is a new alert system specifically for your area. You can text the word "Charleston" to the mobile number 888777 for alerts. If you live in Bradley County, you are asked to text the word "CBCEMA" to 888777 for your alerts. If you would rather receive alerts with a voice call, you are asked to call the Bradley County EMA at 423-728-7289.
Officials said around 25,000 people have signed up for the alert system. That's about a fourth of the county's population.
Olin's plant manager issued a statement following Friday's emergency drill.
As of right now Wacker Chemie says their investigation into the "root-cause" of the September 7 explosion is "well underway."
The plant remains closed for several months until "a thorough inspection is completed and officials are certain that the facility is safe."