Roanoke City officials to finalize train derailment emergency plans

ROANOKE, Va. – Cleanup continues after a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Ohio. Meanwhile, Roanoke officials are preparing in the event something like this happens in the Star City.

Emergency management officials have been working on a plan for a potential train incident for years now, according to Battalion Chief of Emergency Management Trevor Shannon.

He said COVID-19 put it on the back burner, but they’ve picked it back up and are hoping to finalize a plan by the end of 2023.

“We hope that it’s something that will never happen here in our city, but you have to be prepared,” Roanoke City Mayor Sherman Lea said.

Lea said the city is planning for a group from Norfolk Southern to visit the Star City as well.

“Norfolk Southern is going to offer us some training and communication on how many trains that come through here with those hazardous things on board,” Lea said. “That’s a good thing. Communication is key.”

Meanwhile, work continues on the city plan. Shannon said evacuations are a part of the strategy.

“Some hazardous materials may tell you you have to evacuate up to two miles,” Shannon said. “Depending on the wind and the wind speed and things like that it can certainly be more than that.”

He said evacuations would be a challenge no matter the circumstances, but they’ll rely on police and other agencies to direct traffic and help out.

Shannon said a HAZMAT team would be needed in the case of a train derailment like in Ohio, and luckily ours is 24/7.

“Where some localities might have to wait an hour or two to get a HAZMAT team,” Shannon said. “Something that happens in the Roanoke Valley, we will be there within minutes.”

City officials said the most important thing you can do to prepare for a disaster is sign up for Star City Alerts.

It’s an emergency notification system that will allow the city to alert you immediately by phone or email to danger. To sign up, click here.

About the Author

Amy Cockerham joined the 10 News team in January 2023.

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