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First responders prepare for train derailment in Pittsylvania County

State, local agencies participated in tabletop training exercise Friday

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. – First responders are now better prepared to handle a train derailment in Pittsylvania County.

On Friday, first responders from state and local agencies conducted a tabletop training exercise.

The county holds a tabletop exercise each year for different scenarios, but this was the first one with a train derailment scenario.

The scenario was that a Norfolk Southern train carrying flammable gas derailed and the gas started leaking.

"We've had some small things, such as a brush fire from brakes on a train getting locked up as it's going through the county. We haven't actually had a true train derailment that's caused something like this to have to have to activate, but we would rather be proactive," Pittsylvania County EMA director Jim Davis said.

Norfolk Southern Regional hazardous materials manager Paul Williams said each tabletop exercise the company does is tailored to the locality in which the exercise is being conducted.

"We looked at our transportation, what hazardous materials move through this area. We looked at the top 25 (materials)," Williams said. "From those, we chose which materials we thought would be best to test emergency plans for this area."

He said tabletop exercises like this have proved beneficial when emergencies occur.

"These tabletop exercises are intended to basically work the community through the process of communication with the railroad; what resources we have available, what resources we need from them," Williams said.

About 55 people participated in the exercise.