Training helps local responders in case disaster strikes

tbarton@islandpacket.comDecember 14, 2011 

Members of the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Township Hazmat Team prepare to enter the building for Hazardous Material/Weapons of Mass Destruction Training on Hilton Head Island Wednesday afternoon. The Hazmat team was joined by Hilton Head Island Fire and Rescue, Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and the National Guard 43rd Civil Support Team for the daylong training event.


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Beaufort County Sheriff's Office SWAT team members armed with assault rifles and wearing hazardous-material suits and breathing masks stormed the old Smokehouse restaurant Wednesday on Hilton Head Island.

The exercise: A disgruntled ex-employee wearing a gas mask arrived at his former employer's with tanks of chlorine rigged with improvised explosives and began shooting.

Fire, emergency medical and law enforcement personnel were presented that scenario during hazardous-material and weapons-of-mass-destruction training at 102 Pope Ave. and at Honey Horn.

The former restaurant, which served as a temporary fire station, soon will be demolished, so members of a regional response team used the building to simulate a contamination "hot" zone. The team includes Hilton Head and Bluffton hazardous-material crews, Beaufort County EMS, and Sheriff's Office SWAT and bomb squad members. The S.C. National Guard's 43rd Civil Support Team, based in West Columbia, also participated.

"It's something we try to do on a fairly regular basis, but not always to this scale," said Sgt. Robin McIntosh, sheriff spokeswoman.

For the Sheriff's Office, the exercise was an opportunity to use its bomb-disposal robot and simulate a response to a situation involving explosives and chemical, biological and radiological materials. For emergency medical personnel, it was a chance to practice triage and treating contaminated patients. For the firefighters and hazardous-material teams, it was an opportunity to review decontamination protocols.

For all, it was a chance to test capabilities, communication and logistics when responding to a large-scale disaster, said Ben Waller, Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division training chief.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at

Related Content

  1. Emergency crews train at 2 Hilton Head locations: Dec. 12, 2011
  2. Emergency crews turn demolished Hilton Head station into a training bonanza: Nov. 2, 2010

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