Even though he knew an emergency drill was planned for Monday, the phone call took Ed Newman by surprise.

“I got the call when I was in a meeting and didn’t recognize it was regarding this matter,” said Newman, advertising manager for AMSOIL Inc. “I didn’t realize it was the drill. I didn’t recognize the number. I said ‘Is this my wife?’”

The call alerted Newman, public information officer for the Superior-based business, that an employee had been pinned under a forklift at the distribution center along Susquehanna Avenue. And this was no simple medical emergency; the solvent being unloaded had spilled.

“It was about the only product we could find that had some risk to it for training,” said Scott Davis, vice president of operations for AMSOIL. “It was a solvent that had a flash point that an exhaust could ignite.”

The business carries very few flammable or hazardous products, he said, with most having a flash point of 467 degrees Fahrenheit.

The drill involved the Superior Fire Department, Gold Cross Ambulance, clean-up company Bay West and AMSOIL’s internal response teams.

“If we train for something that might occur, I hope it never does, but we’ll be prepared,” Davis said. “If you wait until it’s occurred to prepare, it’s too late.”

The drill unfolded in real time, with a live 911 call by Newman followed by an immediate response.

“How does adrenaline affect your decision-making ability?” Davis asked. “If there were flames and smoke, how well would he articulate our message if he doesn’t rehearse it and get it into a routine, you’re not going to be able to respond in a real emergency?”

With two key members on vacation, AMSOIL’s internal emergency response team took the reins, finding the spill cabinets, assessing the risk, finding the material safety data sheets and more.

“I want all 10 of them to know they have the authority to act on AMSOIL’s behalf in the emergency response team,” Davis said.

The drill went well, said Superior Fire Battalion Chief Scott Gordon.

“AMSOIL pulled out all the stops on setting the scenario up,” he said.

The Superior business is one of about a dozen that have a public-private partnership with the fire department. The partnership includes annual tours of the facility for the firefighters and onsite training opportunities. It’s worth it to have the fire department as an ally, according to executives.

“We really don’t have a high-risk environment here,” Davis said. “We’ve designed everything to prevent a loss of our business, a loss of life, a loss of our employees. But without training the most likely scenario, the fire department doesn’t know what to expect here.”

The partnership forges better communication and confidence.

“Getting to just reconnect with the people, see the degree of preparedness they have, it makes us more confident too,” Newman said. “We’re very concerned about safety here.”

For the fire department, Monday’s drill was a chance to get 12 firefighters inside to learn what could happen at AMSOIL. It’s training that can easily be applied elsewhere, Gordon said, as there are forklifts and chemicals all over the city.

“We love to work with companies that realize the greater good is something worth talking about,” the battalion chief said.

In addition to the phone call glitch, a communication issue was discovered Monday. Two drivers were off site when the drill began. They drove up and saw the fire trucks, but didn’t realize it was a drill. And there was no one at the gate to warn them. Small things like that are what the company will address as it continues to refine its safety plans.

“This is extra effort on our part and it’s worth it, otherwise we wouldn’t do it,” Davis said.

Newman did report the volunteer victim - Justin - was fine.

Newsletter signup for email alerts