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James City County’s emergency management personnel will spend the next year working with regional governments and stakeholders to plan the county’s response to a rail emergency.
The fire department’s emergency management division has received two grants that will fund the development of an interregional rail emergency plan, which will focus on responses to mass casualty and hazardous material events surrounding the border of James City and New Kent counties.
Division Manager Kathleen Hale said James City County is fortunate that rail emergencies have not taken place in the county. In April 2014, a CSX train derailed in Lynchburg, spilling fire and crude oil into the James River, and in February a Yorktown-bound CSX train carrying oil derailed in West Virginia, forcing the evacuation of more than 100 people.
Trains in both incidents were carrying Bakken crude oil, a material that has only been transported through James City County in the last year and a half, Hale said. She said now that Bakken crude is an issue, the county needs to address it.
“And because of the passenger rail events in other parts of the country, instead of just doing a plan for hazardous materials, it makes a whole lot of sense to look at both passenger emergencies as well as oil and hazardous materials emergencies,” Hale said. “That we way we can leverage all of that input.”
Hale said the collaboration with New Kent County could serve as a model for other communities when they complete their plans. She said James City County intends to request funds next June to finance training and rail emergency exercises.
“What we need to be able to make sure is, should there be a problem, we have good plans, trained people and the ability to call on the resources we might need to effectively respond to it,” Hale said.
The awards include a 2015 State Homeland Security Program grant valued at $42,500 and a 2014 Supplemental Local Emergency Management Performance grant valued at $25,000. The former does not require a local match but the latter will meet a match through staff time and other in-kind support, according to a JCC memo.