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Whitco

Group drills to prep for emergency


Dexter-Russell is 'destroyed' in Tri-EPIC exercise


August 24, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Dexter Russell blew up at lunchtime on a sunny day in May.

The blast destroyed homes across the river on Cliff Street, spit flames 50 feet into the air, and spewed a toxic gas cloud that drifted slowly toward the south-southwest. A dozen people were known killed and dozens more injured with an unknown number displaced by the disaster, which destroyed half of the company's facility.

Police are investigating claims that a "disgruntled former employee" started the blaze by detonating a bomb near one of the firm's methanol tanks, after ruling out domestic terrorism as a cause.

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Of course, such an event did NOT really happen. It was the storyline for a tabletop drill for members of the regional Tri-EPIC emergency team, which features police, fire, medical, DPW and other participants from Southbridge, Sturbridge, Dudley and Charlton.

According to Tri-EPIC Chairman Roland Larochelle, the drill wasn't designed to give the 30-odd players time "to get into the toolbox [of approaches] and the fine points of it," but to answer a big-picture question — How would the towns use mutual aid services in such an event? He noted the group plans to follow up in more depth in future drills, up to and including one that will be a full-scale disaster rehearsal.

As expected, the scenario brought up a whole host of suggestions covering almost everything from blocking roads (using sand piles if needed) to dealing with the media and curious citizens, where to send family members for information, what to do about the students in school at Trinity, how long it might take for the various necessary services to assemble, and even how to ensure other issues needing police or fire responses are covered in area towns.

See Thursday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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