Emergency responders will converge on Columbia County this week for a series of training programs designed to improve responses to transportation disasters involving hazardous materials.
The program, called the Georgia Anhydrous Ammonia Training Tour, is hosted by Columbia County’s Emergency Management Agency and Quad Graphics, one of the county’s major industries.
The three-day event is part of a national training tour presented by TRANSCAER, which stands for Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response, and is expected to attract about 150 emergency officials from Athens to Augusta, in addition to workers from Fort Gordon, the federal Office of Homeland Security and Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division.
The event will include identical sessions Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during which about 50 people per day will be accommodated, said Pam Tucker, Columbia County’s emergency services director. Much of the training will be done in classrooms, but a large “hands-on” exercise will begin each day at the TRANSCAER rail car that will be located at the rail spur near Quad Graphics.
The focus of the training is methods to prevent or respond to disasters involving hazardous materials that are moved along highways and rail lines — a daily occurrence in most communities.
In Columbia County, for example, a commodity flow study conducted in June 2010 identified about 6 million pounds of hazardous cargo that rolled along Interstate 20 in a single day.
The data, gathered at the eastbound and westbound I-20 weigh stations during a 24-hour period, found that almost 6,000 trucks passed through the area.
In addition to dangerous or deadly materials such as chlorine, sulfuric acid and ammonia, auditors also found 92,280 pounds of hydrochloric acid; almost 143,060 pounds of ammonium nitrate; 45,594 pounds of radioactive nuclear fuel rods; 38,760 pounds of weapons cartridges; and 30,730 pounds of fireworks.