The citizens of White Rock were asked to attend a town-hall meeting in July 2014 to learn about the dangers of freight trains rumbling along the waterfront with dangerous goods (Mayor warns of federal indifference to rail fears, July 10, 2014).
A representative of BNSF, a member of the city’s rail committee and a lawyer, formerly with Transport Canada, were in attendance. Some 200 plus showed up. They heard about the Lac-Mégantic tragedy – fires caused by exploding tank cars, the very short time span to evacuate areas affected by spilled chlorine and other deadly chemicals, all of which are transported through White Rock every day and night.
We were advised that emergency plans were worked on by the various departments of the city.
A month later, I followed up with council enquiring on the status of emergency procedures.
In a reply, I was advised that train manifests – a complete listing of the contents of every car in a 135-car train – are “available to fire crews when and if required.”
My question was, if a derailment occurs at 2 a.m., does the city have to send an email or call the BNSF dispatcher for the train’s manifest, as the manifest also includes the position of the cars enabling first responders to determine if cars next to a tank car on fire could blow up a car with deadly chemicals.
I asked if the city has sirens to warn its 19,000 residents of an emergency.
The answer was no, but the city would “use direct contact by staff, media and social media to provide information on incidents or evacuations.”
I have no idea how many of the 19,000 people living here have TV and/or radio and/or computers on 24 hours per day.
My followup with the city resulted in a response stating that they had nothing to add to the answers I received earlier. That is an insult to human intelligence!
I was in Lac-Mégantic the last time a few months ago. The town and its people will never be the same; death and destruction rolled right into the town centre without any warning.
White Rock council must establish emergency procedures and make them public now. One year should have been sufficient time to implement them.
Wolfgang Schmitz, White Rock