Responders’ training safely defuses potential hazards

A couple of stories in the news recently reminded us of the importance of specialized training for our first responders, who know that on on any given day they may run into the face of unpredictable dangers.

Take Nov. 9, when Columbus firefighters were called to Rightway Fasteners Inc., 7945 S. International Drive, on a report of a hazardous chemical spill.

“The spill of about three quarts of acid material, picric acid, had begun to crystallize where it was stored in a chemical cabinet inside the plant, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman,” The Republic reported. Wilson explained that this acid, dehydrated from liquid to solid form, resulted in a potentially explosive hazard.

As a precaution, about 200 Rightway employees were evacuated from the facility while members of the bomb squad — officially designated the Columbus Police Department Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team — came up with a plan to deal with an unusual hazmat situation.

“The EOD team conducted a reconnaissance of the acid, consulted with numerous hazardous materials and explosives disposal agencies and determined the best course of action would be to remove the acid from the facility and destroy the acid by a controlled fire at a neighboring vacant field,” The Republic reported.

It took about five hours to and involved digging a 4-foot-deep hole in which to burn the cabinet containing the acid spill by remotely detonating road flares. With assistance from the Columbus Police Department, Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, Columbus Public Works, Salvation Army, the Bartholomew County 911 Dispatch Center and Midwest Environmental Services, the acid inside cabinet was safely detonated and the danger was extinguished.

The most important outcome was this: no one was injured.

Just days later, the bomb squad, er, EOD, was again called into action when a pipe bomb was located in a car in the 700 block of 13th Street.

Relying on their training, the team responded, again putting themselves in harm’s way in service to the safety of the community.

“The device was … secured by the bomb squad and transported out of the city by a route that avoided schools and neighborhoods” and was disposed of Tuesday afternoon, Harris said.

Once again, Columbus’ trained professionals safeguarded the community. A Kentucky man, Jorden L. Perry, 32, was subsequently charged with possession of a destructive device, a Level 5 felony, in connection with the pipe bomb.

As these recent examples demonstrate, our emergency responders train and cross-train for all manner of dangerous and unpredictable situations, and our community is well-served by their expertise. We take this opportunity to thank these and all first responders. Their dedication to ensuring public safety and their commitment to their mission, even in the riskiest situations, sets an outstanding example of selfless public service.