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Corner Brook Fire Department puts its systems to the test

As the Corner Brook Fire Department was carrying out a hazmat exercise at the port in Corner Brook on Thursday, it was also testing out its entire operation.

From the team that responded to the dispatch back at the fire hall and being able to obtain call-in firefighters, deputy fire chief Craig Harnum said “everything is pretty much under the microscope of evaluation.”

As one of the province’s hazmat response teams, Harnum said the department has a big area to cover.

“Plus, there’s still a city to protect.”

So, it was crucial to be able to ensure that the department could do that.

While at the port with the 10-member team another nine members were brought into the station to handle other emergency calls

As it turns out, some real-life incidents ended up playing a role in the exercise as the department had to respond to an alarm at the long-term care centre, where there was no fire.

And the department also had to be on a bit of extra alert because of a water outage that affected a large part of the Curling area of the city.

With all that, Harnum said the department wanted to make sure it was safely able to complete the exercise.

“It’s a game of hurry up and take your time and make sure all your ducks are in order.”

The scenario at the port involved what was thought to be a routine chemical spill.

If the container containing the chemical tipped over or leaked out on the ground it would not be considered very bad.

“But if it got introduced to moisture or water it turned into an acid which turned it to a hazardous material,” said Harnum.

With the high incidence of rain during the past couple of months, the likelihood of the spill escalating was high so the department was able to ramp up the exercise from somewhat of a hazardous operation to a dangerous operation.

The team is one of the department’s newer ones and Harnum said its members wanted to test their ability at reading that transfer of chemical breakdown to another chemical which changes the hazard level.

The port offered a private area to conduct the exercise with limited access, and it is also an area that would be considered a hazard.

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