2013-09-06 / Community News

First responders come together for safety drill

By Alex Acquisto Staff Writer


Officials from the United States Postal Service and area fire departments underwent a two-hour training last week to test a plan should a suspicious package arrive at the Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center, seen above. Such training is done every three years. It was the second time the center, built in 2005, had the training exercise. (Alex Aquisto photo) Officials from the United States Postal Service and area fire departments underwent a two-hour training last week to test a plan should a suspicious package arrive at the Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center, seen above. Such training is done every three years. It was the second time the center, built in 2005, had the training exercise. (Alex Aquisto photo) Scarborough’s Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center, operated by the United States Postal Service, held a routine drill last week testing employees’ skill on what to do if a suspicious package were to arrive on the campus.

This particular intensive safety drill occurs every three or four years said Tom Rizzo, U.S. Postal Service spokesperson for the Northern New England district. This was the processing and distribution center’s second full-fledged exercise.

“A host of participants in a full-scale emergency preparedness exercise characterized the event as having gone extremely well across virtually all evaluation measures,” Rizzo said.

“The Postal Service and first responders perform these exercises to fine-tune their response plans for protecting employees, the community, and the mail during an actual emergency,” he added.

The 429,000-square-foot facility was commissioned and built in a joint design-build effort between the firms, Korte Company and the Cianbro Corporation in 2005.

The two-hour long safety drill began at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday and was attended by a myriad of local law enforcement.

“Local area first responders, including police and fire departments, Postal Service Office of National Preparedness (ONP) officials, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Northern New England District and plant Emergency Management Team members conducted a “hot wash” or immediate post-event evaluation,” Rizzo said.

The drill went very well,” said Scarborough Fire Chief B. Michael Thurlow. “We trained for all hazards and any event that would require the decontamination process in coordination with other agencies like the hazmat team, the police force, center for disease control. It was a multi-agency preparedness drill for any type of incident.”

“It was a good opportunity for the public safety folks to work with the post office senior staff and to make sure our plans are up to date, to make sure we are all working in the same direction and have a viable plan in case we ever did have a real event there,” he continued.

Scarborough Police Chief Robert Moulton said the police department was not as involved as the fire department.

“We set up blockades to keep the area clear, otherwise we were not asked to directly participate in this particular drill,” he said.

The Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center has been cited in the past for failing to meet certain safety requirements.

The United States Postal Service was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (O.S.H.A.) for safety violations at the Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center three years ago in June of 2010. Specific citations, according to the American Postal Workers Union, were for “’willful and repeat’ safety violations . . . for exposing postal employees to electrical hazards.”

A total of six violations were issued, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration records, “after finding employees working with or near live equipment without adequate training or protective equipment, exposing them to electric shock.”

Total fines reached $430,000.

During last week’s safety drill, those who participated earned respectable accolades for safety, said plant manager Shawn Patton in a recent news brief.

“The hard work and training by this plant’s talented team has earned high marks from several outside experts in emergency response coordination,” Patton said. “Our craft employee volunteers were singled out by all our partners as outstanding and valued participants. I commend and thank them for their invaluable contribution to the success of this essential exercise and its contribution to the safety of all postal employees and our surrounding communities.” Want to comment on this story? Visit our website at leader.mainelymediallc.com and let us know your thoughts.

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