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Safety

NTSB urges more hazmat drills

November 6, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 45

Railroads, emergency planners, and communities are urged by the National Transportation Safety Board to implement practices to ensure that they understand how to respond and communicate with one another when faced with a railroad accident involving hazardous materials. The recommendations were released by the board on Oct. 26 and spring from an Oct. 15, 2005, accident in which two Union Pacific Railroad trains collided in Texarkana, Ark. The accident punctured a tanker car carrying propylene that released and flowed near the ground to nearby homes where the propylene exploded, killing one occupant. According to the board, Union Pacific employees failed to notify the city about the accident in a timely manner. The accident occurred at 5 AM, and Union Pacific conducted its own investigation, completing it by 6:40 AM. However, the company did not supply the information to the fire department, which began its own investigation at about 7:30 AM. A coordinated response to the accident involving the railroad and local emergency planners did not occur until about 10:30 AM. NTSB notes that it made similar recommendations for better coordination of emergency planning in the 1980s. Although railroad and local emergency procedures have been in place since the early 1990s, the plans have not been executed or practiced.

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