News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Local response to spills an example of efficiency

While the country focuses on the failures of local, state and federal governments to deal quickly and efficiently with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, residents of the Valley can be proud of the local response to two potentially dangerous chemical spills Sunday.

Both emergencies — one in the early-morning hours in Athens and the other Sunday afternoon in downtown Decatur — involved leaks of ammonia, a dangerous gas that can cause eye irritation, severe respiratory problems and even death if inhaled in sufficient concentration. In both cases, emergency crews responded quickly and contained the spills after evacuating those who were in danger.

In Athens, firefighters evacuated six homes near the leak and blocked off city streets within a half-mile of the ammonia plume. Residents and their pets were able to get out of the danger zone before any were seriously injured.

In Decatur, where the spill was less severe, firefighters secured the leaking tanks quickly while police diverted traffic away from the hazard.

Too often we take for granted the good work of local emergency responders, whose quick decisions and actions can turn potentially tragic situations into minor incidents.

What if firefighters in Athens hadn't evacuated nearby homes before containing the ammonia plume? What if Decatur firefighters hesitated before securing the leaking tanks?

The debacle along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina reminds us how fortunate we are to have decisive, efficient fire and police departments.

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