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Counties test chemical weapons emergency preparedness


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TOOELE COUNTY -- Emergency crews from three counties had a busy morning, testing how well they would respond to a chemical weapons emergency.

This drill happens every year, and it's fitting to take place in September, since it's National Preparedness Month.

Dozens of agencies participate in the mock drill every year on the state, local, and federal level. The Army and Red Cross also participated.

The exercise took place at the Deseret Chemical Depot, in Tooele. That's where the first scenario took place.

"Then there's several side scenarios to simulate as much as we can and give opportunities to first responders agencies here to have a chance to respond," Derek Jensen, with FEMA, said.

At the high school there was an explosion, and a nearby hospital needed to be decontaminated.

The whole goal is to give first responders some experience working together.

"Emergency response is a team effort, it's everyone together; so these drills are important because it allows everyone to respond together," Jensen said.

Tooele County Emergency Director Kari Sagers said, "It's a great exercise for any disaster scenario. It finds the gaps or holes that we would miss when individual agencies are drilling individually."

Behind all the action, dispatch centers were busy sending crews to the different locations.

Tooele County has a reputation of handling crisis well.

"We've had many other cities come and take a look at what we are doing for an emergency in Tooele County," Sagers said.

Because this drill is treated like the real thing, there were some hiccups, spotlighting some weaknesses --like slow response time -- but that's the point.

"It's always a learning process and a chance for everyone to practice," Sagers said.

All the agencies involved in the drill, from Salt Lake, Tooele and Utah counties, will be evaluated and will go through the feedback to determine what went well and where there needs to be improvements.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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Amanda Butterfield

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