Friday, April 19, 2024

Local emergency authorities address residents’ concerns about train derailments

Questions have been raised about what the emergency response would be in the case of an emergency like the train derailment in eastern Ohio a month ago.

On Feb. 3, a freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed near the Pennsylvania state line and was lit on fire, causing serious health and environmental concerns for residents in the area.

In Denton County, there are three major railroads that crisscross communities: Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Canadian Pacific, (formerly Kansas City Southern). In Argyle, the UP railroad parallels Highway 377 and experiences approximately 22 transports each day. Train derailments are considered large scale incidents and though no major railway incidents have occurred in Argyle, local first responders continuously prepare and train for these types of scenarios, according to a news release from Denton County Emergency Services District No. 1 (formerly Argyle Fire District).

“We are an all-hazards fire department,” said ESD Chief Ricky Vaughan. “We have the capabilities to handle a train accident or derailment, including different trainings and tactics and strategies. We have regional partners including City of Denton Fire Department and the Fort Worth Fire Department that can provide resources for hazardous materials, as well as Denton County Office of Emergency Management. We would also rely on the resources provided by the various railway lines.”

This week, Argyle Police Chief Emmitt Jackson described for citizens the national standard used during large scale incidents: the Incident Command System.  Utilized by first responders and professionals in emergency management, the ICS is a management system designed to enable effective and efficient management of incidents by incorporating the operation of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications within a common organizational structure. In January, Jackson also attended a specialized course in College Station focusing on enhanced all-hazards incident management and unified command and is working to ensure that each elected officials has completed basic ICS training for their situational awareness.

The Denton County Office of Emergency Management also coordinates efforts Denton County’s capacity to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster. Through teamwork and collaboration with local agencies such as in Argyle, the Denton County Office of Emergency Management works to lessen hazard impacts to Denton County. Preparation for large scale incidents includes regular meetings, coordination planning, training, and exercises. Identifying and correcting vulnerabilities, applying grants for public safety and infrastructure enhancements, working with development on future planning on key lines of communication such as railways are also strategies utilized.

“In the event of a major train derailment such as the recent incident in East Palestine, Ohio, Denton County Office of Emergency Management would take the following actions: Coordinate with key stakeholders including mutual aid, federal (NTSB, Federal Railroad Administration, FEMA, etc.), state (TDEM), and local partners, support Argyle in incident management response, coordinate mass notifications, evacuations, lodging, transportation, patient tracking, logistics, rehabilitation for first responders, etc.,” said Eric Hutmacher, Director of Emergency Management for Denton County. “Recovery actions include damage assessment, establishing family reunification/assistance centers, coordinating donations, mortuary services, spiritual care, long-term recovery such as rebuilding homes and damaged infrastructure.”

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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