County officials begin ‘shelter-in-place’ conversation with exercise

By Kayleigh Rahn
Tuesday, Sept. 18 Douglas County and Tuscola officials will be preparing for a train derailment.

Yes, of course it is all hypothetical and part of a years-long training process.

But for County EMA Director Joe Victor and EMA Deputy Director Chana Ray, emergency response is only as good as the rehearsal.

Tuesday’s exercise will be the second, or functional exercise, of a three-phase training experience that will invite state, regional, county, and city officials to the Douglas County Annex to walk through the what ifs of a train derailment on the western edge of city limits.

The functional exercise will begin at 9 a.m. and will entail everything that is done in the full-scale exercise, which will be done in 2019, without moving people and equipment.

For those who remember the 2017 Phase 1 tabletop exercise, the train derailment scenario is familiar. One of the key initiatives of the function exercise will be communication between role players.

The simulated derailment will begin at the Route 45 overpass along the eastbound rail and will close crossings through Niles Street, Victor said.

“Residents notice an odor coming from the area of the train tracks at Parke Street,” Victor explained. “Tuscola Police will find the derailment, and from there they will begin making the proper notifications.”

Victor’s office has partnered with LyondellBasell and Cabot to participate in the exercise, as the chemicals on the simulated train are the same that are produced at the local plants. While the derailment may seem a contained threat, the train was carrying these hazardous materials that will create a threat to the community.

“We have chosen to use Lyondell and Cabot as the shippers of the hazardous products, because both of those folks have been very involved in making sure that Douglas County is up to speed on transportation safety,” Victor said. “They’ve also been involved with funding training throughout Douglas County that deals with what this scenario will put down.”

The full story can be found in the Wednesday, Sept. 12 edition of The Tuscola Journal.

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