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Merrimack Fire Rescue holds hazmat training exercise at Performance Plastics plant

Published on 2 July 2008

Local firefighters conducted a hazardous materials drill using 'hazmat' suits provided by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics at the company's facility in Merrimack.

Imagine this scenario: a forklift carrying several 55-gallon drums of a toxic chemical is involved in an accident. As the hazardous substance begins leaking to the ground, emergency crews are called to the scene. How will they respond?

This very same scenario was reenacted on Thursday, June 26, as the Merrimack Fire Rescue organization conducted a hazmat (hazardous materials) emergency drill at the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility in Merrimack. The drill was designed to evaluate the department's preparedness and response capabilities.

As part of the training exercise, firefighters and other emergency personnel responded to a simulated "Level A" chemical spill. The responders handled everything from establishing control and isolation zones to decontamination and debriefing.

The drill included the simulation of a forklift driving a pallet of containers of a dangerous substance. In the scenario, a 55-gallon drum of a toxic chemical fell from the pallet and leaked on the pavement at the site (in reality, the drum contained lemonade). A team of firefighters arrived on the scene and ran through the exact steps they would have taken to contain such a leak and to protect Merrimack citizens.

The Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility hosted the drill at its facility at 701 Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack. In addition, the company donated three of its National Fire Protection Association-certified ONESuit® Flash garments, and one ONESuit® Gard protective suit, all of which were used in the exercise. These suits hold a dollar value of approximately $10,000. The ONESuit Flash and the ONESuit Gard are industry-leading single-skin HAZMAT suits that provide outstanding protection against exposure to industrial chemicals and biological agents in both liquid and vapor form. Both products are manufactured at the Merrimack plant.

"It's impossible to be over-prepared for a crisis," says Michael Currier, Chief of Merrimack Fire Rescue. "These simulations help our firefighters to be fully equipped to deal effectively with real emergencies, which fortunately don't occur often in our community. The drills give us the training to act quickly and confidently to protect the residents of Merrimack."

Merrimack Fire Rescue extends its gratitude to Saint-Gobain for offering its assistance in conducting this drill, as well as for lending its facility grounds and for the donation of the suits. "We don't make or use any chemicals like the material described in the drill scenario," explains Matt Madeksza, General Manager of Saint-Gobain's Composites business. "Even so, we're proud to have hosted this event and to be a member of this community. It's a privilege to be able to assist Merrimack with its ability to respond to a chemical spill or biological threat."

Chartered in 1924, the Merrimack Fire Department is comprised of a progressive group of men and women who strive to serve the citizens of Merrimack by providing responsive and caring service. Through response capabilities in hazardous materials, technical rescue, terrorism incident response, and firefighting, the department remains capable of dealing with emergencies through an all-hazards approach.

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, of which the Merrimack facility is a part, is a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, a leading producer of construction products, flat glass, high-performance materials and packaging. Saint-Gobain had sales of more than $59 billion in 2007, and has more than 207,000 employees in 56 countries.

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