Sep. 29, 2016
Utica's Union Station sees over 60,000 rail passengers each year. With recent train accidents in Hoboken, NJ and Philadelphia, PA, the chance of an accident here in the Mohawk Valley is on the minds of local first responders. According to Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks, a major incident like a train crash would require all apparatus and manpower in the city. His firefighters train regularly to handle disaster situations and they work closely with Oneida County emergency managers.
"We have response plans in place for evacuations and sheltering," said Fred Lampman, deputy director of Oneida County emergency services. "We have mass casualty plans and we have special tools made available to us by the state like a foam trailer that the Utica Fire Department has.
Brooks and Lampman agree that it's not only a passenger train derailment, but also the crash of a train carrying crude oil that poses significant risk to human life.
"I think our reality check on that was several years ago when there was a train derailment with several cars on fire outside the City of Oneida," Lampman said.
"It reminds you that it's very much a reality that could happen, especially in this region."
Chief Brooks says the key to success in situations like these is cooperation between different agencies. One thing he would like to see is more cooperation between emergency responders and railroad officials.
CSX, who owns much of the tracks in the area, and Amtrak did not return calls for comment.