Drill helps prepare emergency personnel

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Smoke billows from a Birmingham area chemical company.   Barrels are turned over.  Employees scurry from inside.  Within seconds, fire crews arrive and begin dousing the building while others suit up in preparation for the worst.  The scene looks like that of a chlorine release or some other hazardous spill.  But today, this is only a drill.

"You know the old adage, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? You practice," said Mark Kelly, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency.  "And we've earned the reputation...as one of the best EMAs in the country.   And it's a direct result of the training and exercising that we do."

Thursday's exercise included the Birmingham Fire Department, the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency and Birmingham police.   But what made it a unique drill is that Industrial Chemicals, a private company that sells raw materials for cleaning supplies, also joined in.

"So that our people can get trained and their people can get trained to mitigate as much injury and environmental damage as possible," said company owner Chip Welch.  "This is just another opportunity to get better at preparing for, responding to, and recover from any emergency," Kelly added.

Welch said he hopes to hold the drills on a regular basis so that all shifts of the police and fire department can get involved.