Near Underwood, ND – For most of us, the images of the Casselton Train derailment and explosion in late December 2013 are something that’s etched into our minds.
And while we’ve learned from that incident, the town of Washburn is taking it to a new level.
Monday Night Washburn city and McLean County Officials staged an emergency drill of extreme proportions.
Dozens of emergency responders and volunteers all responded to an accident involving a freight train carrying Ethanol colliding with a tanker truck hauling Sulfuric Acid. That train also hit two vehicles so emergency responders were also dealing with several injured people.
Monday nights drill comes less than three months after Governor Burgum signed a bill extending North Dakota’s rail safety program through 2021. The program’s already uncovered over 6-thousand defects and violations since the programs inception four years ago
In a rare move, the National Weather Service was invited to the drill to provide updates on how winds could carry toxic fumes away from the town and potentially make others, miles away sick from the fumes.
“The National Weather Service Runs models that can show where that plume of something nasty being released is, exactly where that plume is gonna go and how fast, that helps emergency responders decide, do they need to evacuate certain towns, certain people or shelter in place, that type of thing,” said John Paul Martin with the Weather Service in Bismarck.
KX News also spoke with a nurse who was participating in one of these for the first time and she tells us she was shocked how real it felt.
“All the patients have different makeup on to simulate what their wounds would actually look like, which makes it feel real, and then all of their vitals are written down that would indicate that they have certain bleeding or injuries that we have to treat, so everyone is so different so it’s been giving us a really good opportunity to practice those skills,” said PAC Physician Assistant Certified Kaitlyn Wirtz .
She and others KX News spoke with told us now was the time to make mistakes and learn because next time, that mistake could cost someone their life.
The Weather Service also said it’s taking the next step in assisting emergency responders whether it be a weather disaster or a man-made disaster.
It’s just not issuing watches and warnings anymore.