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Reality or fantasy?

by Jeremy Goddard – RiskCom’s Technical Director

Imagine a mile-long train transporting crude oil derailing on an elevated track in Jersey City, N.J., across the street from senior citizen housing and 2 miles from the mouth of the Holland Tunnel to Manhattan.  The oil ignites, creating an intense explosion and a 300-foot fireball. The blast kills 87 people right away, and sends 500 more to the hospital with serious injuries. More than a dozen buildings are destroyed. A plume of thick black smoke spreads north to New York’s Westchester County – from the Wall Street Journal article of  April 13, 2015 by Russell Gold.

Quebec Oil Train Accident WSJ

Quebec Oil Train Accident – Wall Street Journal

We’ve all heard of the tragic derailment in Quebec in 2013 when 47 people died. Sadly, derailments seem to be very common and current regulations leave transportation officials in the dark about how railroads would handle worst-case scenario spills – see E & E Publishing article here.

Anticipating and having a response for worst-case scenarios is reality, not fantasy – is your organization suitably prepared?

Recent derailments this year in North America

  • 16 February, Canada:  Freight train derails (29 of 100 cars carrying crude oil). Seven crude oil tank cars catch fire

  • 16 February, US: Freight train derails (nineteen crude oil tank cars catch fire, with over 1,100 people evacuated from their nearby homes)

  • 25 February, US: Freight train derails (13 of 107 cars carrying naphthalene).

  • 2 March, US: Freight train hauling hazardous material derails

  • 5 March, US: Freight train derails (21 of 105 cars carrying crude oil, some of which catch fire)

  • 7 March, Canada: Freight train derails (40 of 100 cars derail, 5 enter a river and 7 carrying crude oil catch fire)

  • 6 May, US: Freight train derails which ignites a crude oil fire in six tanker cars

  • 2 July, US: Freight train carrying hazardous materials derails

  • Last week, US Upper Merion – see image below

A section of train derailed at Abrams Yard of Norfolk Southern along Henderson Road in Upper Merion Friday morning, Nov. 13, 2015. (Gene Walsh — Digital First Media)

A section of train derailed at Abrams Yard of Norfolk Southern along Henderson Road in Upper Merion Friday morning, Nov. 13, 2015. (Gene Walsh — Digital First Media)