BNSF Hazmat presented at the Socorro County Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting recently with officials from Socorro Fire Department, Socorro Hospital, Midway Fire Department, the emergency managers office, forest service as well as other interested parties.

Jeff Hankins, Manager of Hazardous Materials Field Operations for BNSF, gave an informational presentation and brought special equipment for attendees to see.
“I found it very informative and to the point; Jeff, obviously has a ton of experience in this field,” Jason Everett, LEPC chair, said.

Hankins explained to first responders how to identify train markings, where to find the train list of items, how to read it and numbers to call in case of a derailment. He said one of the most important messages they have for everyone working near the railroad tracks is to “keep your head on a swivel” as he warned that even railroad veterans can be caught off guard on the tracks as sometimes the train is “surprisingly quiet”.

He recommended apps made specifically for first responders, not available to the public, that help identify real time information about train cars. BNSF has technology that regularly checks trains with video, heat sensors and other devices that are monitored 24/7 at their command center.

He said when BNSF Hazmat is called out, they respond quickly to the scene and work together with the local fire department and other officials. They can offer resources such as foam designed for hazmat fires and tools to contain leaks.
In his presentation, Hankins shared the statistics for the top ten hazardous items that come through Socorro County:

1. Ethanol/Ethanol blended fuels/Alcohol
2. Diesel Fuel
3. Elevated Temperature Liquid
4. Combustible Liquid
5. Sulfuric Acid
6. Petroleum gases (liquified)
7. Carbon dioxide
8. Petroleum Crude Oil
9. Gasoline
10. Potassium Hydroxide (solution)

When asked about the recent grain train derailment in Socorro, he reported that it is still under investigation.

The presentation will be followed up with a train derailment tabletop drill, scheduled for June 27th, to give first responders an opportunity to practice.

“The table-top derailment drill in June, hosted by the LEPC, is designed to simulate a multi-agency response to a derailment where there might be a spill or injuries,” Everett said. “The intent is to manage the incident using what is called, ‘Unified Command’ where two or more incident commanders are managing different parts of the incident while coordinating together.”

Everett said one of the challenges they hope to overcome is communication between the different agencies and responders. In a real event, they would likely have Fire/EMS, law enforcement, county roads, a
nd Socorro General Hospital responding within their respective scopes of practice.
“We might even have to evacuate the city or have residents shelter-in-place. How we get the word out to everyone to keep them safe will hopefully be an outcome of this exercise,” Everett said.

For people who are interested in attending and/or participating in the tabletop drill, please contact Jason Everett at 206-229-8491.