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Phoenix-area emergency workers prepare for hazmat exposure in new drill

Three East Valley emergency workers participate in a hazmat drill on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. (KTAR Photo: Sharon Mittelman)

MESA, Ariz. — Even though most Arizona residents go about their daily lives without the constant fear of being exposed to hazardous materials, fire and medical departments in the East Valley are preparing for the worst.

Mesa Fire and Medical Department, in partnership with Banner Desert Medical Center, gathered with other fire departments in the Valley on Monday to conduct a hazmat drill outside of the hospital’s emergency room.

Mesa Firefighter Giovanni Mustaca, the subject of the exercise, was “decontaminated” by his co-workers, dressed in splash guard suits, using water, soap and brushes.

“It’s just important to train with the different agencies and the different departments just so we’re all on the same page” he said. “We plan for the day that we hope never comes.”

The Metropolitan Medical Response System is prepared to decontaminate masses of people exposed to any chemical or biological hazard, including anything from pool chemicals to anthrax to saran gas.

Mesa Fire Deputy Chief Forrest Smith said it is imperative to practice hazmat drills in order to prepare for real-life situations.

“By setting this up and doing this drill, it gives us an opportunity to practice what we are going to do in a large situation when a great deal of people are exposed to hazardous toxins like that,” he said.

Smith said part of the drill involves decontaminating patients before entering a hospital in order to control the situation.

“The last thing we want to do is send a patient who has been exposed to a chemical or any type of biological agent to the rest of the emergency room,” he said. “By doing that, you’d end up shutting down the hospital itself because now you’ve created more potential patients.”

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