Emergency Order for Crude Oil Trains

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Jared Roberts

FRANKLIN COUNTY -- Local emergency officials are welcoming new emergency rules on trains carrying dangerous cargo.

The scenes of a deadly derailment in Quebec, Canada show what can go wrong. The crash in July killed nearly 50 people. 
 
That was the beginning of what the Department of Transportation calls a startling year of accidents. There was an explosion in North Dakota in December and a fire in Virginia last week.
 
The common theme was millions of gallons of crude oil.
    
Franklin County EMA Director Ryan Buckingham believes a new emergency order is a good step. Rail companies will soon be required to notify state emergency agencies when they bring through loads of more than 35 crude oil tankers.
 
"We have thousands of gallons of chemicals that travel the rail system each and every day," said Buckingham. "Often times we're unaware."
 
He's wanted such information for years. Southern Illinois is home to several major rail lines carrying all sorts of commodities and chemicals.
 
"Our area has a history of having train derailments in certain spots and certain areas," said Buckingham. "It's definitely a hazard we plan and prepare for."
 
Local fire departments have also been working with rail companies for years. The West Frankfort Department met with Union Pacific officials this past weekend.
 
"Ways to identify the cars, figuring out what we have on scene," said West Frankfort Fire Chief Jody Allen. 
     
The main line near the city's center carries a lot of coal. It's not the only track that Chief Jody Allen has to keep an eye on.
 
"We do have one other railroad that runs through our district that does have quite a bit of hazardous materials," said Allen. 
 
When derailments happen, his department has to quickly find out what's on board. Critical information that's needed to keep firefighters and the public safe.
          
"The main thing is training," said Allen. "Knowing what to do, how to do it, and who to call."
 
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is looking over the order and planning how they'll communicate with the rail companies. They already have an agreement with one line, CSX, that allows the state to track where trains are and what they're carrying.
 
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