ROSEVILLE, Calif. — First responders from 35 local agencies converged on Roseville to rescue the victims of a staged but horrific accident: a collision of a train carrying volatile crude oil and a public transit bus. But the evacuation and treatment of the injured was just the beginning.
Fire fighters, police and other emergency workers then had to contend with leaking oil from one derailed train car, an ammonia gas leak from another and a fire when the crude ignited. First word of the accident reached them at around 8:15 a.m. By 11:30 a.m., exercise players had evacuated 57 injured bus riders to area hospitals (several by helicopter), built a temporary dam to contain the oil spill, extinguished the fire and coordinated the (pretend) evacuation of 8,000 area residents. Thank goodness it was just a drill.
“If such a large disaster ever did happen here, we’d need everyone to be on the same page and working together as effectively as possible, because lives depend on it,” said John McEldowney, program manager for Placer County’s Office of Emergency Services. “We definitely learned some lessons today, but overall I couldn’t have been more impressed with the professionalism and skill of our first responders. If the worst happens, I’m confident we’ll be in the best of hands.”
The exercise took place at the Roseville Fire Department Training Center in Roseville, near the Union Pacific switchyards, with medical evacuations staged in the parking lot of Denio’s Market up the road.
Placer County’s Office of Emergency Services held the exercise to give first responders from various agencies the opportunity to practice working together and test how well they can come together in a crisis. It was also a great chance to test the county’s recently finalized oil-by-rail response guide, which was developed to aid our first responder fire and law enforcement community and specialized response teams in the unlikely event an oil train disaster were to occur here.
The Red Cross coordinated for the participation of nearly 60 volunteers, most of them serving as mock accident victims.
For the quickest warning and information in a real crisis, Placer residents are encouraged to sign up for the Placer Alert emergency notification system at www.placer-alert.org.