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Locals suit up for hazmat training

Emergency workers in full hazmat suits practice capping a hazardous material leak.

Eighteen area law enforcement and emergency personnel are completing an advanced hazmat training course at Andalusia’s law enforcement training center this week.

Police Chief Wilbur Williams said instructors from Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham received grant funding from the transportation department and the state Emergency Management Agency to train emergency personnel across the state.

Williams said the training would have cost $650 per person plus travel expenses.

Members of the APD, Andalusia Fire Department, Covington County Sheriff’s Department, Covington County EMA, and Luverne Police Department are participating.

Williams said the training is important, given the number of rail cars and 18-wheelers that pass through town.

“Inevitably, some of them are hauling hazardous materials,” he said.

Law enforcement officers also encounter hazardous materials in meth labs, he said.

At one time, COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) had funding for cleaning up meth labs. But in the first round of federal budget cuts when Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep the government operational, those funds went away.

Covington County already has a disaster response van, he said, which makes local personnel more prepared than those who depended solely on the feds for clean-up.

“We don’t see the super labs, like in Mexico and the desert,” Williams said.