AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Monday Briefing: Derailments Still Top Accident Impacting Railroads

Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 24, 2022: The Colorado Fire prompts evacuations near California’s Big Sur; a fire in an underground vault left residents without power in Akron; nearly 330,000 pacifiers were recalled due to a choking hazard; high Santa Ana winds left tens of thousands without power in Southern California; a new video series on railroad ethanol incident response is available from the Renewable Fuels Association; in its new publication, CISA urges leaders and organizations to protect against critical cyber threats; Arctic weather pushes into Florida and prompts freeze advisories; and although railroad incidents have declined, derailments remain the number one accident type that plagues the industry.

1. A wildfire broke out near Big Sur in California on Friday, consuming nearly 700 acres by Saturday morning. Residents were caught off guard with the Colorado Fire, which sparked outside of fire season amid low humidity levels and winds of 25-30 mph. Evacuations were ordered for area residents, and Highway 1 was closed in both directions. Thirteen agencies fought the wildfire, which was only 25% contained as of Sunday afternoon.

2. An underground vault fire cut power to nearly 200 residents in downtown Akron, Ohio, on Sunday. FirstEnergy noted that they were bringing in additional crews to help restore power, which was expected to happen by early Monday morning. The loss of electricity came amid an ongoing natural gas outage, caused by a water main break on Saturday. The outage affected dozens of homes, many of which were left without heat for at least three days as snow and frigid temperatures impacted the region.

3. Mushie and Co. issued a recall for nearly 330,000 pacifiers due to a potential choking hazard. The pacifiers being recalled include the daisy and classic designs, which were sold nationwide at retailers such as TJ Maxx, SpearmintLOVE, and Olivia & Jade Company stores. A total of eight reports of the plastic shield detaching were reported across the country, and there were 200 reports of similar incidents occurring outside the United States.

4. High winds left tens of thousands without power across Southern California on Saturday. The Santa Ana winds blew through the area on Saturday, downing trees and power lines and cutting electrical service to residents in at least four counties – Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino. Southern California Edison crews were working to restore power. However, at least 31,000 customers remained without power as of Sunday afternoon.

5. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) updated its training on Ethanol Emergency Response with a new video series. According to the RFA, rail shipments of ethanol account for one of the top hazardous materials transported today, and having an effective response is critical to protecting the public. The release of the video series came just before a 98-car train carrying ethanol derailed on the Oklahoma-Texas border. At least 25 of the 28 derailed cars caught fire, creating a hazmat incident.

6. In light of recent attacks on the Ukrainian Government websites, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is urging leaders of organizations to be on alert for malicious cyberattacks. CISA has published a list of actions that can be taken by an organization, regardless of their size or sector, that will assist with various actions to prevent vicious attacks. The list includes actions to take to immediately detect a potential intrusion, reduce the likelihood of an attack, maximize resilience against attacks, and ensure preparedness if a cyberattack occurs.

7. Another Arctic blast pushed through the Deep South and all the way into Florida, where temperatures were in the mid-forties on Monday. A new winter storm, named Jasper, is also moving through the Upper Midwest, including Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, where temperatures are forecast to remain in the teens for the majority of this week. Residents experiencing the Arctic blast are also under wind chill alerts, and freeze advisories are in effect for most areas in Florida.

8. Data from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) shows an overall decline of railroad incidents over the past four years. Among the top causes for incidents that occurred within the railroad industry, the number one cause of accidents was from a switch being improperly aligned, with defective/missing cross ties holding the number two spot as the cause of a train accident. Derailments were still the number one accident to impact railroads, with a total of 1,315 derailments from January through October in 2021.

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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