Huge ‘HazMat’ training in Parkrose brings area-wide agencies together

WATCH VIDEO! CREWS TRAIN IN FENTANYL LAB AND ANTHRAX HOUSE | See some of what firefighters from three counties learned, while visiting Portland Fire & Rescue’s Parkrose-based Training Station 2 …

This HazMat training day in Parkrose starts with participants – some, from as far away as Hermiston – donning personal protective “bunny suits”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

On Tuesday morning, February 21, at Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Training Station 2 along NE 122nd in Parkrose, the freight trains barreling by on the Union Pacific Railroad line gave a sense of urgency to this particular HazMat training day – due to the Norfolk Southern train derailment earlier in the month that released toxic chemicals at East Palestine, Ohio.

However, this drill wasn’t about a hypothetical toxic train wreck tragedy, we learned from PF&R Public Information Officer Rick Graves.

Standing by to answer questions, it’s PF&R Public Information Officer Rick Graves.

It was really more generalized, Graves said. Regional fire and law enforcement agencies were joining the Oregon National Guard 102nd Civil Support Team in the day’s multi-agency hazardous materials (HazMat) drills – featuring scenarios involving an illegal drug laboratory, and potentially toxic substances.

Under the command of the Oregon National Guard, some of the participants in this training had come from afar – including these Northern Region HazMat teams:

Region  2 Eugene Springfield Fire & EMS
Region  3 Gresham-Multnomah County
Region  7 Portland Fire & Rescue Bureau
Region  9 Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue
Region 10 Hermiston Fire and Emergency Services
Region 11 Astoria Fire Department

“However, the scenarios here today could apply to almost any type of major event that has a hazardous materials component to it,” Graves assured East Portland News.

Inside the “drug-cooking kitchen” a HazMat team from Clackamas Fire examines a substance they’ve bagged for testing.

“In addition to having one of the buildings here at our training grounds being realistically set up as a drug laboratory, another scenario here is depicting what would be left behind if an individual were setting up to send out letters spiked with anthrax,” Graves continued.

See firefighters train to handle deadly pharmaceutical and chemical agents:

The training included a mix of hands-on training scenarios and classroom learning. Crews practiced:

  • Hazard mitigation
  • Field analysis
  • Operating specialized equipment
  • Use and decontamination of personal protective equipment (“bunny suits”).

A drill participant accesses a supply kit to retrieve testing materials.

Under cloudy skies and with rain falling, the atmosphere seemed sinister as we walked through rooms inside the “contaminated house” – rooms that were eerily lit by dim daylight, and the flashlights of the crews involved in the drill.

In those rooms, participants found a realistic drug lab in the kitchen, unknown drugs in the bathroom – and, in the living room, a desk contaminated with fake anthrax.

It’s anthrax! They’re treating the powder they found as if it were the deadly bacteria during this drill.

The teams first identified the substances with which they were presented, and took samples, before moving on to decontaminate the areas.

“Many of those here are experienced, and have already done this,” Graves remarked. “But today, participants are getting inter-agency training.

“This is critical! So that when HazMat events occur, anywhere in the state as well as here in Portland, that emergency situation now won’t be the first time the National Guard and the responding agencies have worked together to mitigate any sort of issue that arises.”

This firefighter bottles an substance for lab testing.

Watching the drills, Graves commented, “In the event we have a hazardous material incident, all of our people are now well-prepared to work together, and have a successful outcome for those impacted.”

© 2023 David F. Ashton East Portland News™



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