BY CAROL MCILMURRAY
ORANGEBURG – Over 40 agencies convened at the Highview Ave and Western Highway rail crossing to simulate a real time response to a large scale accident between a motor vehicle and a freight train carrying hazardous materials on the evening of Thursday July 23.
Over 200 first responders and evaluators reported to their assigned locations during the multi agency staged event complete with decontaminate showers, HAZMAT responders, and an emergency triage unit set up to treat and process victims of a fiery derailment disaster.
The County of Rockland and Rockland Sheriffs hosted the event with the aid of NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, CSX Transportation, and local police, fire, and EMS, as well as about 30 volunteer actors to play victim to in fire disaster caused by a train mishap.
Local utilities United Water and Orange and Rockland Utilities were also on hand to help monitor resources and relay vital information to response teams for the test exercise.
Steve Harris, Ex-Chief Orangetown EMS and Special Operations explained, “EMS usually treats one to three patients…it’s very rare for EMS [to treat patients on this scale]…this is an important educational tool that teaches EMS workers how different agencies work together in such an event.”
Harris further explained, “Trains are carrying a lot of different chemicals, its important to train EMS workers how to deal with such exposures that can cause respiration issues through out treatment, or even at a later date.”
Tommy Jacobs, 35, former firefighter at Tappan Firehouse watched the mock accident with a group of neighbors and said, “It’s a well-planned, well-needed event with the CSX lines running throughout the county, its nice to see everyone working so well together.”
Another onlooker, Orangeburg resident Michele Lynn, said , “Its good to know we are in good hands, if this were to happen here.”
Fear over “train bombs-” trains filled with flammable gas or liquid-has been increasing in recent years, following several accidents involving trains transporting crude oil.