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Wisconsin & Southern conducts emergency-response drill to mimic terrorist act

Class Is aren't the only railroads conducting exercises to prepare emergency responders for hazardous-materials spills and train derailments. On June 26, Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. (WSOR) conducted an emergency response exercise designed to simulate a terrorism act by detonating an explosive device as an eastbound train passed over a crossing near Juda, Wis.

Conducted in cooperation with the Office of Green County Emergency Management and emergency-response organizations in Green and Rock counties, the exercise enabled firefighters, police officers and emergency medical-team members to react to a simulated train crash and hazardous-materials spill.

During the exercise, the second car of a six-unit train overturned, crashing into a waiting school bus and simulating injuries to the occupants. The accident also caused a gasoline leak — really dye-colored water — and knocked down a nearby power line, creating a fire-ignition hazard.

After emergency responders set up a nearby command post, WSOR supervisors arrived on the scene to provide support and advice. Emergency personnel tended to more than 30 child actors, with several transported to a local clinic.

Because WSOR doesn't have the resources of a Class I to train or employ haz-mat response teams, the 640-mile regional relies on private contractors to help dismantle wreckage and control a spill after an accident, WSOR officials said in a prepared statement.

Representatives from Federal Railroad Administration and various state agencies observed and critiqued the exercise.

"Not many railroads in the state of Wisconsin conduct emergency situations such as this," said Ann Abrams, FRA hazardous materials inspector. "The Wisconsin & Southern Railroad and all the emergency agencies that responded should be commended for the hard work they put into this mock accident."

During the exercise, WSOR closed its Brodhead-to-Monroe mainline.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/14/2003