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Emergency officials to plan ahead in case of future train derailment

11 February 2013 No Comment

By AMBER SOUTH
@ShipNewsGirl

SHIPPENSBURG — Shippensburg fire, police and emergency officials on Tuesday will examine possible train derailment scenarios to determine a game plan for response.

The “tabletop” exercise will be the first of its kind in the Shippensburg area, emergency management coordinator Tom Moriarty said when he introduced it at last week’s Shippensburg Borough Council meeting.

Expected to be the first of several in Shippensburg, this tabletop exercise will focus on planning for the aftermath of a train derailment from the railroad tracks that run through the east side of town. The tracks cross Queen Street/Baltimore Road and are close to a number of residential neighborhoods, Schreiber Foods, Shippensburg Area Intermediate School, James Burd Elementary School and a shopping center.

There will be no physical drills or role play in the field for this. Officials will gather in a room in the Shippensburg Area Emergency Medical Services Building. They will hear a hypothetical scenario that may involve intense smoke, dangerous toxic materials and a possibility for explosion. Participants are to come up with a plan to evacuate people from impacted areas and maintain control around town, Moriarty said Monday.

Moriarty will only decide on specifics of the scenario a few minutes before revealing them to officials. He said it will generally involve a number of tank cars and intermodal cars containing hazardous materials jumping the railroad tracks in the busy east end.

Officials will determine how to work with the school district to get approximately 950 students evacuated from SAIS and James Burd and moved into a safe facility, most likely that will be Shippensburg Area Middle School located off U.S. 11, Moriarty said. The plans will include a communication effort to unite students with their parents.

Residential evacuation could pose problems in regards to actually getting people out and having a place to put them, issues officials will need to consider.

Other elements officials will need to tackle include placement of police officers, fire police and EMS personnel, and placement of traffic control points to maintain traffic as evacuees are moved and access control points to keep evacuated areas secure.

Moriarty said it is likely that the hypothetical scenario will include the railroad company’s determination that it will take two days to clear up all issues. Officials will decide how to deal with school attendance and other elements that would be affected.

The tabletop exercise will give officials a good base to build upon should a train derailment or other dangerous scenario ever happen.

“The challenge will be moving people in a real situation,” Moriarty said.

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Amber South can be reached at asouth@publicopinionnews.com and 262-4771.

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