Lessons Learned from the CSX Train Derailment

Emergency management officials are reviewing the lessons learned from the Maryville train accident on July 5, 2015, where an acrylonitrile-carrying train derailed and leaked, evacuating 5,000 residents, according to The Daily Times.

“We were fortunate that (with) the years of training, conducting exercises, and the abilities of the personnel and equipment we had available that we averted a real tragedy,” Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell told The Daily Times.“This does not happen by accident. It has always been important to us in Blount County with all of our emergency services to have the very best training, the very best equipment and the very best personnel so that when we are faced with a potentially catastrophic situation such as the CSX train derailment, we are able to respond, control and mitigate the situation with the least amount of adverse impact on the safety of our citizens and our community. This is something you have to work toward continuously and, in Blount County, we do.”

Lance Coleman, who oversees Blount County Emergency Management, recalled the hours after the disaster. “When we moved from the command post, a large RV utilized by the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, to the Emergency Operations Center at the Maryville Fire Department, and the room was packed and Maryville, Tennessee, was on CNN on the television monitor, I thought, ‘This is big’,” he told The Daily Times, who reported that the cleanup post-disaster involved removing 4,000 tons of contaminated soil. “For years our first responders have trained on dealing with hazardous materials situations. When this happened, everyone came together and worked seamlessly to assess the situation, evacuate residents and stabilize the situation.”

An investigation from The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) did result in some changes, BCSO spokeswoman Marian O’Briant told The Times.

“One of the things we learned is that we have to overcome our instinct to run into danger to save people and to help,” she said. “When it comes to HAZMAT situations, we know we cannot do that. We’ve learned that we need to evaluate the situation to assure the we will not be exposed to any toxins, putting our patrolmen in danger.”

Other changes have included increased documentation to educate employees, such as Materials Safety Data Sheets, and the Alcoa Police Department and Sheriff’s Office agreeing to let TOSHA investigate its practices every two years due to violations.