DuPage County’s Train Derailment Exercise

 

The scenario: a car has struck a train carrying fuel and chemicals, resulting in a derailment and hazardous liquid release.

“What’s happening today is a full exercise to an incident that we created… What they did is they brought a train here to simulate what they would do to respond, our first responders, police fire public works things like that, if there was an incident with a rail car,” said DuPage County Board Member with District 5, Jim Healy.

Organized by the DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, this training exercise brought first responders from all over DuPage County to this site in Downers Grove; a collaboration of municipalities and public safety entities that is key to everyone’s safety.

“No one city can handle any of these situations, even our own Naperville or Aurora can’t handle it even with their size because there’s so many moving parts at the same time,” added Healy.

Police, paramedics, public works officials and more were all involved in the training, working together to mitigate the fictional crash and chemical spill- something many departments have not had the chance to run-through in real time before. In this scenario, the chemicals leaked into the storm sewers, eventually running into St. Joseph’s Creek.

“We have procedures but we haven’t practiced. This is s great thing that our office of emergency management has done not only for first responders but people wouldn’t realize that stormwater would be involved in a derailment of a train but you don’t realize how it goes down in different,” said DuPage County Board Member with District 6 and Chairman of the DuPage County Stormwater Committee, Jim Zay.

Last year, more than 100,000 train cars carrying oil passed through DuPage County, making this scenario an unfortunate possibility.

“The reality is it could happen in Downers Grove, it could happen in Lisle it could happen in any one of these cities along the tracks, so I think the reality is there and I think that DuPage taking this step to be proactive and have a plan in place is a wonderful thing,” said DuPage County Board Member with District 2, Liz Chaplin.

Funded by grants from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the training was the first of its magnitude in our area.

“Practice makes perfect, so God forbid this should ever happen in DuPage County, no matter where it happened we would have whole departments that are trained to respond to this type of incident,” said Healy.

The results of this exercise will be used to create a comprehensive plan for responding to derailments in DuPage County.

This training exercise took eight months to plan and cost nearly $50,000.

Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.

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