Mock train derailment challenges emergency responders
By Annette Tait
“We have two ambulances on the scene with eight individuals. I’m am calling McLean and Oliver County to assist.”
“10-4. Consider calling mutual aid, Killdeer Ambulance.”
It’s the kind of page that hits an emergency responder right in the gut. On its way through a rural town, a train carrying hazardous materials derails after colliding with a semi-truck hauling a tanker. Thick, black smoke is billowing from the crash site, and liquid is escaping from both the tanker and the damaged train cars. Multiple casualties have already been identified, with the very real probability that more are yet to be discovered.
The saving grace to radio transmissions between the Morton-Oliver 911 dispatcher, the incident command center and the various emergency resources that responded was the statement that began and ended each transmission: “This is a drill. Repeat – this is only a drill.”
Even so, it was all business for everyone involved this past Thursday in Stanton, when emergency responders put the discussion at the hazardous materials, or HazMat, tabletop exercise earlier in the month into practice with a full-scale exercise. The exercise gave Stanton emergency services a means to test its emergency preparedness planning, and Mercer County and its mutual aid agencies an opportunity to further prepare for an actual large-scale incident.
“Besides training, I strongly believe that exercising is our best way of preparing for all emergencies,” Mercer-Oliver Emergency Manager Carmen Reed said.