Local Responders Well-Prepared for Disasters like Monday's Explo - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Local Responders Well-Prepared for Disasters like Monday's Explosion

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For local emergency responders, disasters are always in the back of their minds. For local emergency responders, disasters are always in the back of their minds.

KENNEWICK, WA - For local emergency responders, disasters are always in the back of their minds. Because of Hanford and the old Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot, there are several plans already in place to deal with a problem should it arise. That's why Monday's response to the Williams Northwest Pipeline explosion went so well.

As the investigation continues into what caused the explosion we can look back and see that as far as the response went, it couldn't have gone better. Benton County Emergency Management quickly set up a staging area near Plymouth and a command center was busy at work in Richland.

"Initially it was pretty hectic. Trying to figure out what was going on, what happened. Those first few minutes of any response are trying to figure out where all the pieces of the puzzle are going to fit," said Emergency Planner Deanna Davis.

The pieces come together starting with the Emergency Operations Center in Richland. Whenever disaster strikes, a team gathers there to direct responders.

"It just works easier if everyone can be face to face rather than trying to do phone or radio communications across a geographic area. It allows everyone to come together and form a response plan in the same room," said Davis.

"We had a ton of resources on scene rather quickly. Everything fell into place real well. The coordination with law and fire," said Benton County Fire District #1 Captain, Devin Helland.

About 10 people worked from Richland, directing the operations in Plymouth. The first priority: get people out, isolate the area and deny entry into the danger zone.

"We never know what we're going to, what we're getting ourselves into. Obviously, this is a pretty big experience for us. It's a first for us. We've never had anything like this in the area," said Helland.

"Given the fact that we do practice exercises several times a year for our larger technological hazards, a smaller scale incident is second nature to us," said Davis.

Davis said Monday's response was a small scale response. That's because they do trainings throughout the year on large disasters with scenarios involving Hanford or the Columbia Generating Station.
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