Officials stage mock explosion at Pontiac plant

Officials stage mock explosion at Pontiac plant

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PONTIAC -- A mock explosion was "very educational and slightly sticky" on Thursday as emergency workers and Caterpillar Inc. workers tried to make sure everything was in place in case a real problem occurs at the Pontiac plant.

The drill simulated a boiler explosion. Students from the Emergency Medical Technicians Basics class at Pontiac Township High School's Livingston Area Career Center were "victims" of simulated injuries and one fatality.

"Overall, it went wonderfully," said Steve Baron, EMS and emergency response coordinator for OSF St. Joseph-John W. Albrecht Medical Center. "Working with (Cat) on their end, everything seemed to go very well."

The explosion site was set up with strewn garbage and other items. Cat emergency workers arrived first, followed by other departments. Five EMS students were taken to OSF St. Joseph so hospital workers could practice treating injuries. Two students remained at the plant site to practice helicopter transport, although a helicopter was not used.

Baron said the Pontiac Fire Department found it had no communication with Cat officials and that issue is being looked at. The problem is exactly "why we do these exercises," he said.

"Caterpillar takes safety as an important part of our daily tasks, and this gives us an opportunity to exercise the system," said Bob Heitzman, an operations manager for the Pontiac plant.

The EMS students wore makeup to simulate injuries and emergency workers used special radio frequencies to relay information.

"This is really the most fun thing that we have done yet," said 17-year-old PTHS senior Rauchel Borrego, who had fake abdominal injuries and said she wants to become a nurse. "I like the fact that they have done this in a hands-on way. You really can't learn a lot about this kind of work from a book."

Elizabeth Howard, 17, another PTHS senior and a certified nursing assistant, sported multiple fake cuts thanks to a lot of makeup on her face and arms. "I learned that I really don't want to be a patient," said Howard, who works at Flanagan Rehab and Health Center. But "I had a lot of fun and it was a very educational and slightly sticky experience."

Also participating were Duffy Ambulance Service, South East Livingston County Ambulance Service and Minonk EMS.

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