It could happen here.
An accident happened on Jan. 18, 2002, on the outskirts of Minot, N.D., where a number of Canadian Pacific Railway cars derailed. That accident sent a cloud of anhydrous ammonia over the city. It settled in the valley and remained there until the next morning. Despite the fears of those responding to the accident only one person lost their life in the tragedy although several hundred suffered injuries.
Wherever hazardous chemicals are transported by semi or rail, there is a potential for a spill and an equal potential for injury or even death to anyone exposed. Police, fire and ambulance personnel who would be called upon to respond to such an accident face that serious threat if they are not properly prepared.
Tony Bacino, Pueblo, Colo., who works for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway brought that message home to first responders from throughout the region on Monday at two training sessions held at the Devils Lake Fire Department.
The training sessions covered how to recognize the kind of tanker car, for example, that would contain hazardous chemicals under pressure.
Bacino pointed out the kind of protective gear and the approach needed for first responders as they attended to the needs of the situation, different methods for different kinds of chemicals.
He talked about the CP rail accident in Minot 10 years ago and how that incident taught authorities a great deal about dealing with a spill of that magnitude.
Then those taking the class were invited outside to learn more about fighting a fire or accident involving a railroad engine, tank car or an anhydrous ammonia nurse tank. He’d brought examples of all three and allowed each responder to climb up on the engine and the tanker car, and to go inside to see how they were constructed. He pointed out areas where responders might be vulnerable should an explosion be imminent and how to identify fluids leaking from a train by their color.
Materials were provided to the responders, some of whom came from Larimore, Minnewaukan, and other surrounding communities as well as Devils Lake and the Lake Region, to bring back to their departments including a copy of the BNSF Railway Emergency Response Hazardous Materials Awareness booklet and General awareness Familiarization DVD.