by Susan Hellauer
The quiet of a clear summer evening was suddenly shattered by an air horn blast last Thursday. Within moments, Rockland’s radio frequencies came to life and first responders rushed to a staged event involving a collision between a vehicle and a CSX tanker train carrying volatile Bakken crude oil, at the Highview freight rail crossing near Route 303 in Orangeburg. Firefighters on tower ladders aimed hoses at the smoldering rail cars, while others extricated trapped victims. Police evacuated the area, closed roads, and directed traffic. EMS workers tended to the wounded and covered the dead.
The July 23 full-scale disaster exercise was conducted with the cooperation and assistance of CSX Railroad. Dozens of Rockland’s police, fire, EMS, Hazardous Materials agencies, town utilities, state and local health, environmental and emergency services organizations convened for a specially-designed simulation of a grade crossing accident and fire, using a CSX-provided “safety train.”