By Pat Maurer
A day-long effort by emergency personnel may have averted a more serious situation in Clare last Sunday.
Emergency crews from Clare Fire Department, Clare City’s Department of Public Works, Clare Police, Clare County Sheriff’s Department, the Red Cross, DTE Energy, MidMichigan Medical Center, Mobile Medical Response Ambulance, Clare County Transit and others all converged on the Fifth Street scene early Sunday morning when Tendercare Health and Rehab officials called to say they had a water main break and smelled gas.
Fifth Street was closed in the area and traffic detoured for most of the day while emergency crews worked to fix the breaks.
Clare Undersheriff Dwayne Miedzianowski said Tendercare staff and the emergency crews “did a great job ensuring the safety of the facility’s residents. It was an extraordinary team effort by all involved,” he added.
Clare Fire Chief Jim Chapman, the incident commander during the emergency, said that a six-inch cast iron water line broke and “took out the gas line.” He said the line was leaking but still had pressure and was still providing gas to the Tendercare facility.
Chapman said DTE crews worked to bypass the gas line break. “They installed a new temporary gas line above ground,” he said. Both the gas and water lines supplied Tendercare and were on the facility property, but an evacuation of the 71 residents there was not necessary and the building never lost heat. Water supplies were only interrupted for about an hour while the water line was repaired by Clare DPW workers.
Chapman said emergency personnel “monitored the building non-stop from 7:45 a.m. to around 5 p.m. for any traces of gas inside the building.” He said Transit busses were on hand in case an evacuation of the Tendercare residents became necessary.
He complemented the DTE and Clare workers. “This [break] really wasn’t their responsibility,” he said, “but they took care of it.”
“We have been training for this type of an emergency,” Chapman said. “I believe we did a great job. It’s comforting to know that all of the crews worked so well together.”
Tendercare Administrator Rebecca Smith said, “At approximately 8:15 a.m. on Sunday, February 23, 2014, Tendercare Clare staff alerted the authorities about a possible gas leak and water main break outside our center.”
She continued, “As a precautionary measure, approximately 30 residents were moved to the opposite side of the building for a couple hours while emergency crews made repairs. We have policies and protocols in place to respond to an emergency situation such as this and our staff reacted quickly and appropriately.”
She said, “The Clare Fire Department and other emergency personnel responded to the situation and requested that we avoid drinking water for the next 24 hours. We maintain a three-day supply of water on hand at all times and have access to vendors should we need additional supplies.”
Smith added, “Our primary focus is the health and safety of our residents and we want to thank everyone for their concern; and the authorities for their efforts on our behalf. Their assistance was greatly appreciated. We will be meeting with the emergency responders and others involved in this situation in the coming week to discuss what we have learned from this situation and to see where improvements, if any, can be made.”
She said the break was on the east side of the building near the administrative offices.
Smith said the emergency crews did an excellent job in taking care of the problem. “If it wasn’t for the emergency personnel inside the building, you wouldn’t have even known anything was wrong,” she said.