People driving by the Carthage Fire Station on Wednesday may have thought they were driving past a science fiction movie set with men in strange, bright green suits walking around the station and working around a trailer in the parking lot on Sycamore Street.
Workers with the Butterball Carthage turkey processing plant were at the station perfecting the skills they needed to handle a situation they hope to never encounter, a hazardous materials incident at one of Carthage's largest employers.
Like any industrial plant, a poultry processing plant has its hazards, one of which is the chemicals in the plant's massive refrigeration system.
Jim Leach, Industrial Consultant working with the workers on Wednesday, said Butterball is unique in that it has workers on site trained to handle hazardous materials incidents and work with the firefighters once they arrive.
“We do this every year,” Leach said. “The fire department supports us and helps is with our equipment and air tanks. This week we held three ammonia incident classes.”
This week, employees brought their hazardous materials equipment trailer to the Carthage Fire Department and practiced wearing the suits that will protect them in case of a spill or leak.
During Wednesday's training, workers practiced assembling and disassembling systems of pipe while wearing the bulky hazardous materials suits.
Leach said those suits provide all-around protection against a variety of chemicals and include protective boots and self contained breathing tanks and masks. They also contain radios so the people wearing them can communicate with each other and incident commanders.
“This kind of preparedness is a big deal when you have a plant like this in town,” Leach said. “It's an investment to have the ability on site to respond to these situations. The community needs to know that Butterball has this ability and be aware that these guys are doing their due diligence in making sure they can respond to an emergency at the plant.”