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Energy & Environment

'Tabletop' exercise an 'eye-opener' for Fargo, Bismarck and the state

North Dakota’s homeland security director says emergency responders learned a lot from this week’s “tabletop exercise” that simulated the derailment and explosion of crude oil rail cars in Fargo and Bismarck.

"This was certainly an eye-opener for both Fargo and Bismarck, and other communities that were able to listen in," said Greg Wilz. He said emergency personnel are very good at dealing with what he called “normal disasters” – such as floods and fires. Bur Wilz says an oil train derailment is different.

"There are different resources required to deal with a catastrophic derailment of an oil train," said Wilz. "It really showed us that, even though we're certainly good at resourcing a lot of local disasters, and local needs and responses, there are other things needed that should be brought to those kinds of events."

Wilz says, for example, that kind of incident calls for more medical personnel and equipment, as well as people to handle temporary morgues, should they be needed.

"The next step is to take a good look at the plans we have in place now, and improve them," said Wilz.

Wilz says he may be asking the Legislature to fund more equipment and personnel to deal with these kinds of incidents. And he says there’s a need for more training.

'Bottom line is -- when you've got trains, you have the potential for derailments," said Wilz. "It can happen with anything. There are many other hazardous materials that move by train, and we have to be prepared for it all."

A train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed near Casselton last December. It caused the evacuation of the city. No one was seriously hurt.

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