Emergency responders take steps to prepare for train derailments

Local News

Train tracks sit throughout our entire region.

Hundreds of trains pass by and history shows us, with this many trains barreling through, you can never be entirely sure one won’t go off the rails.

“It can happen very easily and there are several different types of hazardous materials that come through here every day,” Ted Beam, a Blair County Commissioner, said.

In fact, our region is no stranger to train wrecks.

Think back to August when a train carrying hazardous material flipped in the small town of Hyndman. The substance burned for days.

It’s situations like these that have emergency workers preparing. That way if the call comes in, the ones who head to the scene first know exactly what to do.

“There has to be some fear because there is an unknown,” Chief Tim Hileman, from the the Altoona Fire Department, told us. “We have to approach cautiously and identify what products are on the train so we can apply the appropriate response.”

Emergency crews said lately the most common material to pass through our area is crude oil.

“It’s a flammable liquid,” Mark Taylor, Blair County Director of Public Safety, said. “There’s more and more of those trains going through these days so we picked that as one that likely would happen should something go wrong.”

Tuesday night was all about working together. Fire departments, EMS, police, hospital workers, and more all making sure the community stays safe should a disaster on the railroads strike.

“You can’t just say it’s never going to happen here,” Beam said. “It very well could happen here at any time so we have to try to be as prepared as possible.”

The next step now is to do a hands-on exercise so first responders can put their plans to work.

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