Special Report: Training Hazmat Safety - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Special Report: Training Hazmat Safety

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CORPUS CHRISTI (Kiii News) -

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico sent shockwaves throughout the world, raising red flags about an ecological disaster that could effect generations.

It just so happens that many of the people who responded to the massive clean-up effort along the Gulf Coast were trained right here in Corpus Christi. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi's National Spill-Control School is not only teaching safety to students, but it's educating an entire industry.

A mock drill held at the TAMUCC National Spill-Control School is about as real as it gets, right down to accidents. In the command and control center, coordinators direct and follow the step-by-step clean up.

"In this class, they learn about cleaning up spills or super fund sites, or pretty much in between," said Tony Wood, director of the national spill-control school.

Wood was among the first students in the specialized class more than 30 years ago.

"And it actually resulted in me getting my first job out of college," Wood said. "I've been an environmental consultant, business developer, for over 31 years before I came back here about three and a half years ago."

Today, the highly specialized class is recognized as a leader in the training of spill responders.

"There are many different agencies that work here in the Coastal Bend area, that deal with many types of emergency response situations," student Tara Capobianco said. "So it's really important for everybody to understand the proper procedures that have to take place, and really to know what needs to be done to make sure an emergency response goes very smoothly. Because accidents do happen."

"We have students who come from Nigeria almost every year," Wood said. "We've got people from Guatemala, Central America, South America. We've trained people in Europe and the Middle East."

The TAMUCC spill-control school couldn't be in a better setting along the Gulf Coast. It is in the perfect place to help train students on how to protect our state's sensitive bays and estuaries from the potential harm of offshore oil spills.

Wesley Frank, a hearing impaired student working on his master's degree in environmental science, said the class is challenging but extremely important to him.

"And now with environmental science, I'm learning about maintaining chemicals and how you respond to that, because I've developed more of a concern," Frank said.

It is because of concern such as Frank's that the students say they are here; because should one day the inevitable happen, they will be ready, thanks to the  National Spill-Control School at TAMUCC.