DARKE COUNTY – At least 70 public safety and first responders attended Saturday’s HazMat tabletop training session with a scenario involving an across-the Ohio-and-Indiana-border train derailment between Ohio and Indiana.
“It was a great training,” said Union City Fire Chief Pam Idle. “It was a railway incident training and offered lots of opportunity to learn, to identify problems and bridges the gap across states. It’s makes us realize we do have a lot of resources.”
Union City Police Chief James Baird called a train derailment with cars carrying hazardous chemicals an “eye opener” and he’d definitely be contacting county and village agencies.
“On an incident like this, both departments don’t have the resources and manpower to handle an incident like this on its own.”
The incident training covered a 110 train cars stretching 1.3 miles with citizens, first responder safety, railroad personnel, chemicals leaking, injuries, while thinking about the impact of what an ethanol spill could bring to the area.
Keys issues addressed for the Ohio-Indiana Rail Incident addressed on the outset are obvious like explosions and fires occurring, chemicals needing to be blocked from storm drains, fish dying downstream in local waterways, evacuation measures, alert systems and the media on the scene for public press conference updates.
Agencies and officials participating in the tabletop training were from the state Environmental Protection agencies, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency; Ansonia, Greenville and Versailles public safety fire and police responders; Randolph County Homeland Security Emergency Management; CSX Railroad Public Safety Health and Environment officials, which offered a range of resources like HazMat; the Ohio National Guard 52nd Civil Support Team; and 911 from Mercer County offering a communications command center.
“We have a seven-county response area for our [Interoperability Vehicle Communications] truck,” said Monte Diegel, 911 Administrator for Mercer County. He said that its available to Jay, Randolph and Adams counties in Indiana. His team travels throughout the state for people to see and use for training exercises. “It’s called 911 because communications was an issue. We have 11 vehicles in Ohio. No area is more than two hours away from one of these trucks.”
Darren E. Price, Exercise Program Manager for Ohio Emergency Management Agency, said while all responders are at the training, in reality people will be in different places and they think through the ‘what if’ of the incident like equipment and manpower.
Also attending the training were Darke County Commissioners Diane Delaplane and Mike Rhoades. The county commission helped to streamline communications among its the first responding agencies through a Homeland Security funded grant about 10 years ago.
“A few years ago, the main problem was communications of frequency differences,” said Commissioner Diane Delaplane.
“It’s a work in process,” added Rhoades, saying they are working through the bugs and that’s is what this is about. He noted that all first responders in Darke County are volunteers, except for the City of Greenville. “It’s a constant upgrade. If we had a true thing happen, we will be there. The County Commission will be a financial resource.”
Darke County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Shawn Trissel noted that there are mutual aid agreements between state border communities like Union City Indiana and Ohio, as well as among those in the county.
Evaluation of the training is expected to be available in the near future, but immediate questions posed to officials and first responders during the exercise covered logistics like identifying what’s on the train, type of HazMat, providing updates to various agencies or what they need from them, and an Incident Action Plan (IAP).