Members of the Presidio of Monterey Fire Department, Salinas Fire Department and the California National Guard's 95th Civil Support Team participated in a hazardous materials exercise at the former Fort Ord area Nov. 10.

The HAZMAT exercise began with a call to the POM FD. The caller described strange smells coming from a hotel in the area, which was actually an abandoned barracks located nearby the California State University of Monterey Bay area. In response the POM FD sent first responders to the scene.

After inspecting the hotel, team members found suspicious materials on the premises and called in for HAZMAT support, all the while finding and evacuating "casualties" along the way.

HAZMAT teams responded to the call with the latest in detection and prevention equipment, including the 95th CST, which provided a decontamination station.

The actions were all a part of a real-world response process, said Capt. David Wilcox, POM FD HAZMAT coordinator.

He explained the importance of the exercise was to help various agencies prepare to operate together by working out differences before an actual emergency.

Wilcox said that exercises such as the Nov. 10 one help all involved agencies with streamlining their communications and their ways of doing business so they can more smoothly work in a joint operational setting.

As a result of the exercise, Wilcox said that the agencies learned to better communicate with each other. He added that individually and together the organizations did very well.

Wilcox said that although hazmat situations have been rare (two in four years during Wilcox's time here), the departments and the 95th CST try to drill in exercises at least once or twice a year.

"It brings camaraderie between everybody within a real-world scenario," Wilcox said of the importance of HAZMAT exercises.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16