It may not have been a real emergency, but the resulting processes were real enough.
A mock evacuation and emergency procedure run-through at Casella Family Brands on Wednesday morning saw fire crews from Yenda, Griffith and Leeton including a hazmat team involved in an emergency sulfur dioxide (S02) leak.
As the alarm sounded, around 300 of staff working the morning shift were taken unawares.
While they were pulled from their normal routine, both staff and fire and rescue crews ended up coming away with invaluable first hand experience.
Watch The Area New’s video of the involved procedure below:
Casellas public relations, education and training officer Les Worland said while there was a significant amount of downtime for the business, the many benefits and valuable experience gained far outweighed the productivity loss.
“There are a lot of new employees in a place like this, and with seasonal workers coming, we place a huge importance on making sure everyone knows what to do,” Mr Worland said.
“In a real emergency you can’t say, well I only have 15 minutes left to finish this - you put it down and get out of there. It saves lives.”
But not only the staff benefits for Casellas employees: Fire crews from around the district gathered at the site of production to live the real procedures and put their training to the test.
When the fire crews turned up, they were faced with a poisonous carbon dioxide leak. They had one man down, so after removing the affected person they geared up to contain the leak.
Zone Commander for NSW Fire and Rescue Bob Sayer said the hands-on training for the teams was invaluable.
The exercise was based around the fire crew from Yenda, with Griffith and Leeton incorporated as well, although not all were physically there on the morning.
“Theoretically we would have these three teams with a specialist hazmat unit,” Mr Sayer said.
Most fire and rescue crew members on retainer, it was a solid effort for everyone to take time away from their day-jobs to take part in the initiative.
“It tests us in one of our core roles, which is hazmat and the lifesaving recovery of injured people.
“This exercise is hugely valuable for a number of reasons,” Mr Sayer said.
“It goes beyond that, in that it builds relationships between large infrastructure like Casellas and us, it creates communication, and an understanding of how we both operate.
The event was organised last week, with some members of the fire crews coming to assess the area and to plan the logistics of the operation.
With the prepared scenario in mind, they came in sirens blazing to assess the scene, remove the one casualty, contain the leak and decontaminate the area.
“In the pre-prepared scenario the wind was travelling in a different direction to on the day,” Mr Sayer said.
“If we were to do this again our advice would be to not plan so much ahead. Turn up, assess the situation and work with the conditions on hand.”
But for the purposes of this exercise, they stuck with the planned wind-direction to avoid having to evacuate the residents next door.
“Overall, we are extremely pleased with how everything has gone,” Mr Worland said.
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