Communities today are better prepared to handle disasters than ever before with the available resources they have. There has been publicity lately about train derailments since three major railway accidents have occurred in the past seven months nationwide. There is particular concern about train derailments involving spills of oil and other chemicals that cause contamination.
With about 60 trains a day passing through Washington and parts of Franklin County, most of them hauling freight of all kinds, concern about derailments is present.
Washington’s emergency management director and fire chief, Bill Halmich, in a story in this issue, says the city is prepared to handle train derailments, and has had experience in working them. One of the problems in dealing with train derailments is that Union Pacific Railroad tracks in Franklin County run along side the Missouri River. That poses access problems. Another access problem is the bluffs on the south side of the tracks in many areas. However, Washington emergency personnel have had to reach derailments by boat before and are trained to do so.
Union Pacific from all observations and available information does a good job of maintaining the tracks. There are railroad crews in this area working on a regular basis. Regardless of that, accidents can happen.
Chief Halmich told The Missourian that emergency personnel are in regular contact with railroad officials. The fire department has been confronted before with situations involving chemicals and part of the personnel training program includes how to handle those incidents.
Fire department and other emergency personnel are prepared and are very aware of the potential threats to the community from accidents, especially from derailments.