Cities Prep for Oil Derailments
Mile-long trains carrying millions of gallons of crude have become a common sight in cities around the U.S., raising concern about the possibility of a catastrophic derailment near crowded neighborhoods or critical infrastructure.
In the wake of a half-dozen fiery crashes this year, The Associated Press surveyed nearly a dozen cities with populations of more than 250,000 to gauge how prepared they are to respond to an oil-train derailment.
Emergency officials in every city say they’re aware of the threat and are taking steps to address it, but the level of preparedness differs from city to city.
∎ City does not have an emergency plan that specifically addresses oil trains, but says it’s developing one.
∎ City participated in tabletop exercise in 2015 sponsored by CSX and involving several agencies and contractors.
∎ Railroad paid for tank car simulator and kits for capping leaks on pressurized railcars.
∎ City discussed potential dangers with railroad.
∎ Has oil-train emergency plan.
∎ Variety of tabletop exercises and training exercises have taken place in and around Chicago involving railroads, first responders and government officials.
∎ City recently developed pilot training program for first responders.
∎ Fire department has sent about 25 members to train in Colorado so far this year, paid for by railroad.
∎ Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed national hazardous materials freight fee on oil producers and industrial oil consumers to generate money for rail infrastructure and safety improvements.
∎ Has oil-train emergency plan.
∎ City took part in tabletop exercise involving derailment and hazmat release, but it wasn’t specific to crude.
∎ Planning underway for regional derailment tabletop exercise for 2016.
∎ City does not have a specific oil-train emergency plan, but its comprehensive plan includes procedures for containment and vapor suppression. City plans to draft a Milwaukee County Rail Response Plan.
∎ Fire department provided basic training on crude shipments and accidents to more than 800 members.
∎ Hazmat team has trained with specialists from railroads; members have also received training in Colorado.
∎ City has met numerous times with railroads.
∎ Railroads have paid for training, equipment, including foam trailer.
∎ No oil-train emergency plan; city relies on “major hazardous materials event” response plan.
∎ City has conducted live training for rail incidents and sent hazmat team members to Colorado for oil response training.
∎ Sen. Al Franken wants trains rerouted around Twin Cities.
∎ Rail industry has paid for “awareness level training” for firefighters.
∎ Emergency plan has sections related to oil and hazardous materials.
∎ City took part in King County’s tabletop exercises in 2014 and 2015. City working with railroad to set up a Seattle-specific exercise later this year.
∎ Fire officials, Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad met to discuss train tunnel under downtown; City Council asked railroad to restrict oil shipments along stadiums and through tunnel.
∎ Railroad has paid for training, equipment.
∎ City has emergency response plan specifically for oil-train accidents.
∎ Fire department’s special operations and hazardous materials units took part in training scenarios based on response plan.
∎ Railroad hasn’t paid for training.
∎ Emergency plan includes city-owned New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, a major rail line through city that connects with six private railroads.
∎ Railroad has self-imposed speed limit of 10 mph to reduce likelihood, severity of derailments.
∎ New Orleans Public Belt railroad provided tank car to fire department training academy.
∎ Fire department has sent 12 members to train in Colorado, include six in 2015; railroads foot bill.
∎ City has oil-train annex to hazardous materials emergency plan.
∎ City held “functional exercise” with CSX railroad in October 2014.
∎ Office of Emergency Management conducted internal training on crude oil emergencies that included mass notification and evacuation, activation of emergency shelters, overall emergency response coordination and recovery.
∎ CSX has provided training to fire department. City intends more planning and training.
∎ No oil-train emergency plan, but city is adding section to existing emergency operations plan.
∎ City plans to both meet with railroads and to introduce training exercises once emergency response guidelines are finished.
∎ Hazardous materials team has attended railroad-sponsored tank car training.
∎ No oil-train emergency plan, but city says 2008 hazmat response plan is undergoing revisions.
∎ City did tabletop exercise on June 4 with 70 participants from local, state agencies and railroads.
∎ City meets about once a month with railroads.
∎ Railroads paid to send four fire department employees to Colorado for crude-by-rail training.
∎ City had been seeing as many as nine oil trains a week last year, but more recently there have been few, if any, trains passing through.