CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Counties across Central Illinois are taking note of Friday’s hazardous material crash in Teutopolis, stressing preparedness for both responders and civilians in the event a similar disaster occurs.
The crash happened on U.S. Route 40 in Effingham County, about half a mile east of Teutopolis. A tanker truck rolled over and the tank, full of anhydrous ammonia, was punctured, creating a toxic cloud that resulted in five deaths and at least five others hurt.
Champaign County’s Emergency Management Agency said this is the time for counties to look at policies, procedures and guidelines to prepare for future HAZMAT disasters.
EMA coordinator John Dwyer said that in Champaign County, there was a tractor-trailer crash that leaked dimethylaminopropylamine in 2015 and an anhydrous tank leak at a tank farm in 2016. In both of those instances, responders took the same steps that Teutopolis took just days ago.
But Dwyer said people need to be just as prepared as officials.
“All you can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Dwyer said.
Teutopolis had to put those words into action and put their preparation plans to use on Friday.
“The size and scope of that incident, I know our HAZMAT team went down, so did Danville, and of course, it was just the loss of life, it was very tragic,” Dwyer said.
He said more goes into saving lives than showing up on the scene.
“Look at look at your policies, look at your procedures, look at your guidelines, look at your training,” Dwyer said.
It also takes help from other agencies like the National Weather Service. Leaks like anhydrous ammonia aren’t contained to one area. The weather and wind play a part in how far it spreads.
“Because the Weather Service can do modeling for long-term hazmat incidents, just like they did for the one in Teutopolis,” Dwyer said. “They have the ability to monitor situations.”
Dwyer said one of the important steps in these types of situations is getting the word out and having a plan in place to do so. Effingham County sent out a message the day of the crash alerting people to evacuate to the west and where to find temporary shelter.
“Hopefully we can all learn something from it, but things do happen,” Dwyer said.
But just as the different agencies have to send out alerts, Dwyer said people in the community have to make sure they will receive them.
“Whether it’s on their cell phone or a weather alert radio or monitor TV, or even radio,” Dwyer said. “Just make sure they have multiple ways to get alerts.”
National and local authorities are still investigating the details surrounding the crash that led to the leak.
To check to see if government alerts for a smartphone are turned on, people should go to their phone settings and down to the government alert settings. There will be an option for emergency alerts and public safety alerts.