Shelby County prepares County EMA offers class for responders

Terrorism is something that people in Shelby County don’t worry about too often.

But after Sept. 11, the threat has become real for county officials.

While Shelby County may not be considered a likely target for a large-scale attack, Don Greene, director of the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), says preparation for terrorism and even major accidents is important to assure citizen safety.

&uot;Here in Shelby County, we sometimes think we’re not very vulnerable, but you never know,&uot; Greene said.

&uot;With all the state highways and railroads coming through, you never know when you could have an accident.&uot;

To address those issues, Shelby County firefighters, police officers and other first responders recently got some first-hand training to deal with weapons of mass destruction and hazardous materials.

The Shelby County EMA partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice Center for Domestic Preparedeness for an eight-hour Responder Aid Class on Nov. 8-9.

The on-site program included hands-on training with equipment, techniques and procedures involving chemical and biological agents, decontamination equipment, radiological materials and improvised explosive devices.

The class was held for two days at the new Shelby County Sheriff’s Department training facilities in Columbiana.

&uot;This course is designed to give these people the training they might need in the case of an emergency involving weapons of mass destruction or even for something like a chemical spill,&uot; Greene said.

Included in the class was a session on decontamination that allowed participants to try on some of the personal protection equipment used to handle an accident or attack involving hazardous materials.

Robert Kiinstler, equipment supervisor and safety coordinator for the Shelby County Highway Department, was one of many participants who found the class both challenging and rewarding.

&uot;We had to suit up for the decontamination part, and that was real strenuous,&uot; he said. &uot;But we got to see what it would be like if we were ever in that situation. It was real intense and I thought it was real informative,&uot; Kiinstler said. &uot;It was one of the best training classes I’ve been to.&uot;

Eddie Swain of Harpersville Water Works also serves in the Alabama Army National Guard.

He said he felt the class was informative and well-worth his time.

&uot;We have a chemical unit in the National Guard so I already knew a lot about it,&uot; Swain said. &uot;But there was some things they taught me that I didn’t know.&uot;