In order to provide an answer for that question, various city and county entities on Monday, including representatives from public safety, education, environmental protection, emergency services, municipal agencies and business and industry, gathered at the Clarence Brown Conference Center to participate in a CSX TRANSCAER crisis management exercise facilitated by Bill Ferroli with Compliance Associates, Inc.
“It’s a tabletop exercise simulating a train derailment. They’re putting the information on the screen and everybody has a radio and is in different command sections like they normally would [be] in a disaster situation,“ Dwayne Jamison, Bartow County Fire Department division chief for training and special operations, said. “It’s an exercise for our HAZMAT team, but it’s also an exercise for all the agencies and entities to work together.
“Fortunately, we’re getting better dealing with disasters. Unfortunately, that’s because we have so many. The fact that we just dealt with a tornado that came through really helped us prepare for this [scenario].”
The disaster situation sections Jamison referred to included command, operations, planning, logistics and HAZMAT. For example, as unidentified products spilled from the train cars during the scenario, the HAZMAT team had to use resources such as documentation to identify whether the products were hazardous.
Other groups would then communicate to determine the next step based on the materials, which at one point called for a quarter-mile evacuation due to the hydrochloric acid, turpentine, pellets, alcohol and diesel that spilled from individual train cars.
“What we would normally do is ... the on-scene fire guys are radioing information to the HAZMAT team and the operations section about what they see on the scene,” Jamison said. “Also, from CSX, we’ve got a list of every train car by number and exactly what [each train car] is carrying in it.”
Some objectives during the half-day training included learning how to establish a remote command post, establish communications with the railroad and other interested parties, performing risk assessment and developing an action plan for management of hazardous materials involved.
Jamison said the training would help with communication and organization in the event of a train derailment. Capt. Shawn Teems, of Bartow County Emergency Management Services, agreed.
“The biggest thing is, in an incident like that, you’ve got to have three things — communication, coordination and cooperation with all agencies, and they have to operate within the NIMS, the National Incident Management System, and that just sort controls the flow of the scene,” Teems said. “It branches out from there to the different [agency and disaster situation sections], and objectives are then identified and met.”
Jamison said he felt the community agencies who participated in the scenario are adequately prepared to handle a similar situation, but there was room for improvement.
“Something we’re working hard now to improve is our technology from an emergency response standpoint,” Jamison said. “We’re trying to get away from notebooks and dry-erase boards, to really expand on our technology so we can do video conferencing from the scene, we can do mapping from the scene, access our [geographic information systems] programs from the scene to get a better feel for the incident commander and the planning team out in the field and what they’re dealing with, and also be able to interact with our emergency operations center or the fire department operations center and the different areas like that so we get better communications and a better idea of what we’re dealing with and what’s going on.”
The last time a train derailed in Cartersville was Friday, Nov. 5, 2010, near West Felton Road. The derailment, which consisted of 15 cars carrying corn, caused traffic delays for several days following the incident.