HERMISTON - A new plan is needed for getting ambulances to the Umatilla Chemical Depot in the event of a chemical agent release, Don Smythe, depot coordinator for the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, told the CSEPP Governing Board Thursday.

The issue was highlighted during the annual CSEPP drill last week, which tested the response of local emergency personnel in a community-wide emergency.

"During the exercise, we determined that the cities of Hermiston and Stanfield would not have the resources to send an ambulance to the depot," Smythe said.

Oregon's requirements for ambulance drivers make it difficult to keep qualified medic personnel on the depot, which has a high turnover of soldiers and workers, Smythe said.

To alleviate the problem, Hermiston and Stanfield have a legal agreement with the depot to provide ambulance services both during normal operating days and in the event of a community-wide emergency, said Jim Stearns, Hermiston fire chief.

But he added that the agreement contains the caveat that community members, who pay for the services, must have first right to the services.

The problem regarding the distribution of resources came about when local fire and police personnel found themselves responding to a real-world motor vehicle accident at the same time they were supposed to be responding to a mock motor vehicle accident which was part of the exercise. As players in the drill, depot workers also called at about that time to request an ambulance transport for "injured workers."

"We said 'no' based on the idea that the community must come first," Stearns said.

The mix of mock and real incidents that occurred during the community-wide test showed that "there is no guarantee we will be able to provide an ambulance to the depot," he said.

Smythe said depot officials are looking at a number of solutions to the problem, including possibly supplementing the cities' services.

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