Unaware of Hazmat Drill, Authorities Respond to Scare

July 02--CORSICANA -- Call it a lesson learned for all parties concerned.

An in-house training exercise "gone wrong" at Nalco-Champion (the former Corsicana Technologies) Wednesday sparked a few anxious moments for Corsicana first responders -- for a short time believing that a large anhydrous ammonia cloud had been released from the plant.

"We neglected to notify the police we were having a (test) alarm," said Dan Gilliland, plant manager. "We hadn't 'closed the gap' with the 9-1-1 folks like we should have, and they ended up at our gate."

Plant personnel placed a call to 9-1-1 during the exercise, reporting a leak of anhydrous ammonia from the plant, said Corsicana Fire Chief Donald McMullan. McMullan said the caller did not say the report was part of a test or drill.

Gilliland explained that normally plant personnel will contact local emergency departments to advise them of a planned training exercise. He said this time that contact was "apparently not" made.

The dispatch through the City of Corsicana's 9-1-1 system was very clear, said McMullan.

"We put everything in action on our end, and contacted our Haz-Mat technicians to respond ... it caused quite a stir with us," said McMullan.

McMullan said plant officials were "surprised" when first responders showed up at the gate of the plant.

Police Chief Randy Bratton said plant officials that met police and first responders said the call to 9-1-1 was "an internal mis-communication."

McMullan said he planned to meet with plant officials to discuss the incident, as well as review procedures for future drills.

Nalco-Champion is located on East State Highway 31 in the Corsicana Industrial Park, and produces a variety of chemical products, including many used in petroleum industry.


Bob Belcher may be reached by email at bbelcher@corsicanadailysun.com

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