derailFor TIH-incidents where a hazardous inhalant is released, community hazmat teams can be expensively-equipped and trained to deal with events such as a leaking valve. However, the full scale ruptures that might result from a derailment or collision are beyond the capability of even the most trained and equipped first responder teams. Add to that challenge the confidential nature of these shipments. The railroad is responsible for declaring the emergency. For a derailment incident in Binghamton, NY, this notification took two hours to reach emergency personnel.

What is being done to reduce the danger? Well, that depends on creating community awareness. In New York State, the site of numerous incidents in the last decade, communities worked together over the last 30 years to create the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition. As an example, this organization is working on legislation to reform federal chemical policy, reroute toxic chemical trains around municipalities, and create awareness to prompt action at both the legislative and executive levels.

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Additionally, chemical suppliers are looking for less-hazardous materials to accomplish their manufacturing needs. When possible, these suppliers are also looking for the shortest route between source and destination to reduce the travel duration of these hazardous items. Our railroad infrastructure remains one of the safest methods of transporting these hazardous materials in bulk quantities, however, every family should be aware of the potential harm a derailment might create and incorporate such events into their disaster planning.

The most common directive in the event of a railroad chemical spill is evacuation. Remember, a collision or derailment event could happen any time, day or night. Understanding the likely wind direction and recommended evacuation routes *before* an incident will save critical moments for you and your family. Building community awareness and incorporating this planning at the community level will make everyone safer.

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Matt S
Matt is a former infantry officer in the US Army with a degree in systems engineering from West Point. He currently works as an engineering consultant integrating hardware and software into new applications. He is a graduate of Airborne School, Air Assault School, and SERE-High Risk (Level C) at JFKSWCS.

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