Workers clean up imaginary oil - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Workers clean up imaginary oil

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Doug Walker – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -Orders are barked out, and equipment is unloaded into the waiting hands of the workers. It may be a practice run, but it's serious business. This is the kind of effort that may just save our beaches if oil washes ashore. 

William Pitts oversees the operation with a keen eye for details. 

"We need to get people that are used to this heat, that know how to don the Tybex safety gear and know how to take orders from their supervisors and perform their task that they're designed to do," Pitts said.  

Rakes and shovels stand at attention, ready to be used by this army in white. They scrape the sand and bag it. It's then carried back to the highway. In this heat, Pitts says safety is rule number one. 

"As you see, we have an ambulance on site, we have eight safety personnel that are monitoring our individuals at all times for heat stress related incidents, and we work them according to the heat index factor." 

Workers break and drink fluids every 15 minutes, and are glad to have a seat and cool off for a moment.  

The purpose of this exercise: practice, practice, practice, because if and when oil does strike our beaches, they've got to get it right the first time, according to Michael Pope with BP. 

"What we're working on right now is to make sure that we can mobilize these folks from Canal Road and our other staging areas to this location or whichever location is needed an efficient manner is really what we're doing today."

Pope says this exercise is a also a major undertaking. 

"We've got right at 1,700 people that we need to run through, so we're looking pretty good right now." 

And keeping the beach looking pretty good is the ultimate goal of these men and women. This is the first of three days of training. Several sites are being used on the beach between Gulfport and Pass Christian.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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