Barrow agencies team for very realistic training

WINDER -- No, it wasn't an alien invasion. Or plague outbreak. Or anthrax.

But it could have been.

Earlier this month, several agencies combined efforts to stage a faux major emergency at Barrow County's Leisure Services building, replete with Hazmat suits and gobs of fire apparatuses.

The joint training session -- put on by Barrow County Emergency Services, Winder Fire Department, Stepan Company and the Georgia Department of Public Health -- acted as the group's Hazardous Materials annual refresher.

"The whole class was made up of multiple departments and businesses contributing," said Capt. Bryan Bullock, a training officer. "It made for better training for the firefighters involved."

Another contribution to the class came from Apalachee High School. Technical Instructor Glenn Morris and his students from Apalachee filmed part of the course for an upcoming training DVD, said department spokesman Lt. Scott Dakin.

Firefighters also had an opportunity to go through the Georgia Fire Academy's Biological and Chemical Training trailer.

"This allowed them to try different equipment and test their skills in handling a possible spill," Dakin said.

Barrow County Emergency Services has operated a FEMA Type 3 Team since 2005.

This allows the department to handle most hazardous material events in Barrow County, as team members can respond to scenes and work to contain and control any spill.

When needed they also have the ability to call other regional teams for assistance, Dakin said.

"The primary reason is that these 'extraordinary events' do not happen that often ... it would not make fiscal sense to prepare for every possible scenario on our own," said Chief Dennis Merrifield in a release. "However, we continue to plan for these events."