Can Coast Emergency Crews Handle A Train Derailment ?

Trains roll through the Coast every day, and many times, they carry hazardous materials. That's why police say there's always a potential for trouble.

Sgt. Jackie Rhodes said "One of our vulnerabilities is a train derailment, and it's something we try to plan and prepare for".

Earlier this year, the city of Biloxi prepared by putting together a Hazard Mitigation Plan. Part of that plan spells out how emergency crews, like the Hazmat Team and police, should deal with a chemical leak, spill or derailment.

Rhodes said "We would establish a safe cordoned area, we would set up traffic control so only authorized personnel could get into the affected area, and we would evacuate people who were already in the affected area".

The city of Ocean Springs actually experienced the danger in November of 1996. Dozens of people rushed to an evacuation shelter when a tanker car on a CSX train leaked a highly flammable chemical as it passed over the bridge into Ocean Springs.

Mayor Seren Ainsworth said "That situation that happened more than 8 years ago has made us more aware of incidents that could happen along the railroad tracks, and it's also made us more aware of the training that we need".

Since then, the city has trained eight firefighters as Hazmat technicians, and worked on better evacuation plans, especially in isolated neighborhoods.

Mayor Ainsworth said "For instance, Lover's Lane, you have to be very careful because of the vapors and the wind blowing. You don't know if it's going to blow over the Bay, so there's possible evacuation by boats".

City leaders say with the constant training, and being alert at all times, they're prepared to handle a train disaster. Biloxi police say CSX crews check the railroad tracks every eight hours to remove any hazards that may cause a train derailment. Every year, the officers train with other agencies on their emergency response plan.