FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSIL) — The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) received more than $600,000 to support Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness. Some of that money has been awarded to counties in southern Illinois.
Director of Franklin County Emergency Management, Ryan M. Buckingham says, "There are hundreds of vehicles that travel this interstate on a daily basis that have hazardous materials on board so the risk for HAZMAT emergency is pretty big."
Franklin County will receive $55,000 per year for the next three years, all in an effort to keep the community safe.
Buckingham explains, "The grant allows for our agency to employ a part time planning person who specially concentrates on planning for hazards materials emergencies and also dealing with the facilities in the county that store reportable quantities of HAZMAT and making sure that that information is available to the public if they request that."
The grant also allows the agency to conduct annual hazardous materials training for local emergency responders.
Buckingham explains, "Hazardous materials moves up and down our roadways everyday it’s stored locally in our communities in various different manufacturing facilities and so on and so forth, so really the potential for a HAZMAT emergency is there and we have to make sure we’re fully prepared for it."
Benton Fire Chief, Shane Cockrum, says this training is vital, "Fortunately or unfortunately we sit in an area that has a lot of railway, has a lot of highway, and with those both come chemicals and materials that are dangerous."
Cockrum elaborates the annual training brings fire departments together allowing them to share information and work together more safely and quickly, "I believe this time we brought in something like 18 fire departments and had approximately 60 personnel that were involved in that."
Cockrum says that nearly every incident on I-57 involves some form of hazardous material spillage, making the training crucial, especially when keeping chemicals out of water and sewer ways.
Cockrum explains, "Once those chemicals get into the water ways and sewer ways it becomes a major event and has an effect on all of southern Illinois and so we feel like with our close proximity to Rend Lake that we’re a very important factor in making sure that doesn’t happen."
The Benton Fire Department’s special operations trailer holds a variety of supplies and safety gear so that they are ready to take on any emergency.
Cockrum says, "What we do is we train to make sure that if that event happens and it’s something that we can’t control we can shorten the amount of time that it does have an effect."