OUR OPINION: Efforts of EMA officials ensure areas safety

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2007

At 9 a.m., the Marengo County Emergency Management Agency was to conduct an emergency situation simulation at Marengo Academy. The training exercise would have involved most every agency in the county plus Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital.

Instead, a train derailment cancelled the exercise and took center stage. Thankfully, the derailment was not anywhere near as severe as the training exercise. Nonetheless, six people were injured and emergency crews had to work dangerously close to highly combustible jet propellant fuel.

In the end, all six injured persons were safely extracted and sent to hospitals here, in Tuscaloosa and in Mobile. The site was contained.

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As the federal government was made aware of the accident, they took over responsibility for the area. The Marengo County Sheriff&8217;s Department and the Alabama Department of Public Safety became security for the area.

What yesterday morning&8217;s events show is what everyone knows: we can never prepare for an emergency situation. Irony is that the a real emergency struck literally moments before a 911 call was to be made as the start of a training exercise.

At first, it seemed nothing more than a train derailment that did not seem severe at all. Six people sustained minor injuries. The biggest challenge, at the beginning, was just getting them out of the woods to where ambulances and helicopters could get them to medical attention.

As it progressed, at least one injury was found to be more serious. Furthermore, the potential for disaster became apparent.

Thankfully, the solid jet fuel could not leak and cause a hazardous material scare. The real concern was igniting it through fire or sparks, which officials said was unlikely.

During it all, our guys got down to business and did what they had to do. And by the time the feds showed up, everything was secure.