Emergency Services Plan Possible Town-Wide Drill For Spring

In prior years, the River Edge Office of Emergency Management has hosted multi-department and town drills and looks to host another this March

Facing new scenarios for possible disaster, the River Edge Office of Emergency Management hopes to resurrect a multi-department drill this spring.

The borough OEM previously held town-wide training for several years but had cut back over time due to the cost of hosting the program. Current OEM coordinator Tom Smith has proposed resuming training this spring and return to making it an annual occurence.

"It's not everyday that everyone works together," Smith said. "The police go on every ambulance or fire call, whatever is going on they are there. The fire department maybe works two to three times a year with the ambulance corp."

The goal of the town-wide drill would be to place one emergency services department in the lead to construct the training scenario, go over their own training ahead of time and then run the drill.

"The other departments would react as they normally would," Smith said. "That's where the real learning is, to see how everyone does what they have to do."

Several years ago, REVAS led a mass casualty training scenario for a train crash just south of McDonald's. At that time, the ambulance corp and police responded first and the fire department was called in later as the drill called for smoke from under the train. According to Smith, at that point mutual aid was called in from New Milford, Oradell and several other towns, to test the borough's first responders on coordinating with outside help.

"The fire department had offered to go into the train cars with backboards and remove injured victims," Smith said. "But a typical backboard is wider than a train aisle, so that taught us we need to design a specific backboard to use on trains. We also learned that with having so many outside departments coming in, that alone can be a disaster to coordinate everything. That's why the drills are so important."

One training scenario Smith wants to organize at some point is how to handle a gas truck accident on Kinderkamack Road.

"If you think of how many gas trucks go through Bergen County and every single one of them has the potential to BLEVE," Smith said. He explained that BLEVE is an anacrym for boiling liquid, expanding, vapor explosion. "It's where the pressure in the container can build to the point that it falls and creates a rapidly expanding explosion.

"The local police, fire and ambulance are going to have their hands full with just people in town that live along the corridor and getting them out to safety and then having to vent any buildings," Smith added.

At the same time, county and state officials would have to be notified in case of such a scenario to bring in additional assistance in containing the gas.

Currently no date for the spring drill has been finalized.

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