First responders in the Inland Northwest look at several types of major incidents and try to learn from them. Locally, there are passenger trains as well as trains that carry coal and oil, that could do some serious damage if they derailed.
2 On Your Side found out how Spokane area first responders prepare to deal with a train derailment if it ever happened.
Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said an oil train derailment is a real possibility in the Spokane area and they are prepared.
"The complexity really occurs with oil trains from a variety of things like if the container is breached, is it on fire, is it next to a river, is it next to our downtown, evacuations, all those considerations are variables to our incident command decision making," said Schaeffer. "Every train has a specific identity. We are able to them look up based on the markings on the train and determine what's on the train, how many of those there are, that type of information that kind of help us determine the level of response and the level of concern."
Several city and county agencies would work together in case of a major train derailment. Each one tasked with a specific job. Greater Spokane Emergency Management officials said they drill constantly for major incidents. And they have a close partnership with law enforcement, fire and the city. They are required to update their official emergency response plan every 5 years. But they are able to revise it sooner. In 2018, Greater Spokane Emergency Management will begin to update their plan.
We learned often times our local first responders will go to areas where there was a major incident and see how those local agencies responded.
Schaeffer said they had some people in Mosier, Oregon. A fiery oil train derailment happened in Mosier in June of last year. Eleven cars derailed in the 96-car Union Pacific train and one caught fire, releasing oil along the tracks parallel to the Columbia River,
"We were down in Mosier from a hazmat perspective to gain the impact to the community and what they learned and what we can do different,” said Schaeffer.
Schaeffer said he went down to Las Vegas after the mass shooting that left more than 50 people dead.
"I was able to get a lot of information to bring back to Spokane to help build resilience and not only in the response aspect but in the community,” said Schaeffer. "All the systems are in place for that really bad day, hoping again that it never happens, but hope isn't a strategy that we can rely on in our business, so we're prepared."