Training exercise prepares residents for possible sarin gas leak


by Alex Schuman

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 18 at 6:57 PM

(WHAS11) -- A young woman wobbled up to the emergency room outside Baptist Health Hospital.  She is met by medical professionals in protective suits to prevent them from getting affected by the cloud of sarin they are pretending to avoid.

On Wednesday, the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, or CSEPP, held a mock accident at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Ky.

"It's along the lines of prepare for the worst,” Greg Mahall, Blue Grass Army Depot, said.
Officials fly in from Washington, D.C. for the exercise to assure everyone knows their part.
"We've always identified findings, observations, shortcomings,” Mahall said.  “Always looking to improve on what we have."

The schools go silent while the hospital can turn into organized chaos.  Walking their hallways you can only hear the sound of fresh, specially filtered air, getting pumped into the school thanks to a new feature installed in 2002.

"They put an over pressurization in our school,” Vickie Fritz, Clark Moores Middle School Principal, said.  “So that we have like an envelope that we bring all our kids into so that they would be safe.”
During the exercise, the doors get locked to make sure no student or parent brings in dangerous air. 

Fritz wishes the drills were unnecessary, but also never feels unsafe in Richmond. 

"I've grown up with it as well, and I've just paid attention to the things I need to do to keep myself and my family safe."

Small leaks of sarin and mustard occurred about five years ago, but did not pose a serious or harmful threat to the community.  The Blue Grass Army Depot still houses one of the last two remaining stockpiles of chemical weaponry in the United States. 

Five hundred twenty tons of chemicals sit inside the base, and a mere two miles from Fritz’s school. 

Their distance from the depot plays into why the district takes these exercises so seriously.

"It's because we realize if there's a chemical leak,” Fritz said.  “It's a life or death situation."

"Anything could happen so prepare for the worst, and do it to the best of your ability,” Mahall said.  “And keep the community safe.”