The Procter & Gamble plant in Mehoopany simulated a chlorine spill evacuation on Wednesday to test internal and external emergency response.
P&G holds its Community Awareness and Emergency Response drill every three years.
“This is a drill that we do to prepare for a chemical release if we were to have one and how we respond to keep our employees and the community safe,” said P&G spokesperson Jose de los Rios. “We simulate our internal response with our own emergency response team and we engage community first responders as well.”
At 9:30 a.m., an alarm was triggered and 120 employees simulated evacuating the plant.
In the simulation, the P&G team in charge of hazardous materials response addressed the chemical release while the company’s emergency response team provided medical care to affected workers.
Ambulances transported mock-injured individuals to Tyler Memorial Hospital, which also conducted a test of its own systems on Wednesday.
Some workers in the simulation had secondary injuries from incidents such as falling and bee stings, while others experienced serious effects from the chlorine release such as breathing issues and skin irritation.
The drill wrapped up in about 15 minutes.
“The purpose of the drill is to ensure that we have the correct response and that it’s executed quickly so that we have minimal or no impact on the local community,” de los Rios said.
P&G utilizes chlorine to disinfect water brought in from the Susquehanna River for manufacturing purposes, as well as for potable uses within the plant, though de los Rios could not disclose how much chlorine the plant uses.
Outside of internal P&G teams and Tyler Hospital, the evacuation received aid from the following: Pennsylvania State Police, Meshoppen Borough Police, Meshoppen Volunteer Fire and Department, FWM Ambulance Association, Washington Township officials, Wyoming County Emergency Management Agency, Wyoming County 911, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Wyoming County EMA Director Gene Dziak spent the evacuation as an observer in P&G’s incident command center and said everything went according to plan and well overall.
“There’s a few tweaks I’m going to communicate back to P&G and those tweaks are nothing more than to make the EOC (emergency operations center) a little better,” Dziak said. “I think that they’re good partners of the community and exercising something like this, not only are they protecting the plant, they are protecting the communities that they surround.”
Between employees and contractors, the P&G plant in Mehoopany employs 2,500 people.
“Our focus is prevention so that we never have to execute an evacuation,” de los Rios said. “In its 53 years of operation, the P&G Mehoopany plant has never had the need for a site evacuation, but we want to be ready, and we want our community partners to be ready in case something unforeseen should happen.”