|HazMat drill helps local National Guard members train for the worst|
|Thursday, 15 November 2012 16:07|
It's quiet topside at the former site of the Homestake Mine in Lead. That's until the Sanford Underground Lab's emergency response personnel discover an unknown substance potentially threatening one of the facility's buildings.
Sanford ERT Coordinator Woody Hover says, "Our response team got their breathing apparatuses ready and came over with our gas testers and started doing a search of the building level to level. When they got down to the bottom floor, they found some materials they felt a little uncomfortable about with the level of protective equipment we had."
Enter: the National Guard's 82nd Civil Support Team. The Ellsworth-based team says they're the best in the region when it comes to assisting the Sanford personnel in identifying and removing the hazardous material threat.
SFC Alex Raber of the SD National Guard says, "We possess different monitoring equipment and different communication abilities. We specialize in a lot of our training so this is what we do on a daily basis, is train with our equipment and we really are the subject matter experts in our equipment, so we bring a lot of knowledge in that arena."
Two HazMat technicians strap on about 75 pounds of protective gear before they can safely enter the affected area. Once they're in, navigating the building's narrow corridors is no easy task. It's hot and hard to see and every bump against a wall presents a threat to their life in the form of a potential tear in their plastic suit. Nevertheless, they're tasked with identifying a number of materials in the building, narrowing down their search for the dangerous one.
Raber says, "We go down there, we monitor for anything that we're coming across, so we're looking for the biological stuff, the radiation, chemical hazards, so just depending on what they get for readings on their equipment, we'll adjust at that point."
The two technicians will stay in the building until they're in danger of running out of oxygen in their air tanks, or until the threat is removed and the facility is deemed safe to enter by the incident commander. Thankfully Thursday's threat is a mock one, but it ensures both the 82nd and Sanford emergency personnel are properly prepared for the worst both at the lab and in Western South Dakota.