Hazardous Materials Training with the Asheville Fire Department at UNC Asheville

A training exercise held on the campus of UNC Asheville May 24-26 reinforced the ability of the Asheville Fire Department and other agencies to cross-communicate with each other in the case of a regional emergency incident, as well as provided an opportunity to stage a large-scale drill.

The exercise, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, simulated a scenario in which a tractor trailer carrying hazardous material collided with an activity bus. Multiple responders were involved, and UNC Asheville student volunteers participated as mock victims. As the Asheville Fire Department HAZMAT team handled the simulated spill, volunteer students were transported by Buncombe County EMS to Mission Hospital, which was conducting its own drill in tandem with the exercise.

AFD Division Chief of Safety and Training Barry Hendren said the experience was valuable in that it sharpened the ability of many responder groups to work together on a large scale emergency. The group of agencies involved included UNC Asheville, the Asheville Police Department, Mission Hospital, Buncombe County Emergency Management, Buncombe County EMS, NC Emergency Management, the Reems Creek Fire Department and AB-Tech.

“We enjoy working with other agencies in our community in exercises like the one we just completed; it gives us the opportunity to establish relationships that help us all deliver a high level of service to the residents and guests in our community,” Hendren said. “This exercise allowed us to utilize several new pieces of equipment that will further enhance the level of services we can deliver.”

Additionally, the department thanked UNC Asheville for its cooperation and assistance in planning the exercise and providing the site and campus security.

“The staff at UNC Asheville was tremendous to work with in the planning of the exercise, and their level of support helped the exercise to be a success,” he said.

UNC Asheville representatives reported that the exercise benefitted the university’s emergency personnel as well, helping build strong ties with other agencies and the community.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the Asheville Fire Department and other regional emergency response agencies to help facilitate these full-scale training exercises on our campus,” said UNC Asheville Police Chief Eric Boyce. “The hands-on experience of these exercises will increase the preparedness of all of our organizations to respond to these types of incidents and enable us to work together to ensure the safety of our students and the greater Asheville community.”