First responders to hold hazmat containment drills on lake

By Reader Staff

State and local emergency response teams, in coordination with BNSF Railway and other organizations, will host on-water emergency response drills at various locations in and around Sandpoint and Clark Fork on Friday and Saturday.

The training sessions will consist of a classroom review on Friday morning and on-water exercises on Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River on Friday and Saturday. Participating agencies include the Bonner County Office of Emergency Management, local and regional fire departments, BNSF and Montana Rail Link railways, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and BNSF contractor Whitewater Rescue Inc.

Emergency crews deploy boom floats to simulate catching an oil spill. Photo by Ben Olson.

Exercises will include oil spill containment techniques, boom equipment deployment, and oil recovery and storage tactics. Drills will take place at priority locations as identified in the Bonner County Geographic Response Plan, a comprehensive document drafted in coordination between BNSF and Bonner County to dictate site-specific emergency response in the event of any regional hazmat release regardless of source.

“It’s always important to train on how to respond in these types of situations,” said Bonner County Emergency Management Director Bob Howard. “In the event of an emergency, we need to know how to respond, where to stage, what to do, and how to use the equipment that has been provided to us from the railroads and the agencies.”

Training sessions will take place near the Dover Marina, the Clark Fork Bridge, near the Highway 95 Long Bridge, and at the city of Sandpoint’s water intake. These locations will all provide scenarios for first responders to deploy boom equipment to protect these areas from potential floating contaminants.

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