HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Trains carrying hazardous materials travel through Pennsylvania on a daily basis.
The Rockville Bridge connects Marysville, Perry County, and Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County.
“In 1997, we lost five cars into the Susquehanna River which affects all the water intakes for the city of Harrisburg and everything downstream,” said George Drees, Susquehanna Township Fire Chief.
Drees says what happened in East Palestine, Ohio is now at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
“We have contingency plans but there’s no fire company, no fire department that can fully say yes, we can do it.,” said Drees. “We have to rely on our partners at the state and regional levels.”
“Those types of incidents are low-frequency, high risk,” said Chris Fisher, Deputy Director of the Department of Public Safety and Dauphin County Emergency Management Coordinator.
Fisher says the department reached out to Norfolk Southern after the derailment in Ohio and requested a commodity flow study related to hazardous materials.
“We take a look at what are the top hazards that are coming through our area and then we’ll spend a little extra time planning for those specific hazards,” said Fisher.
In 2006, a train derailed in Derry Township, prompting an evacuation.
“We were lucky that none of the product had been released, and the evacuation area was pretty small,” said Rodney Sonderman, Deputy Fire Chief of Hershey Volunteer Fire Department.
A derailment in the township hasn’t happened since but Sonderman says they’re better prepared than before. There’s an app for first responders called AskRail.
“There’s a number on every train car that is visible from at least four sides and we can look up what’s in that car at that particular time,” said Sonderman.