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  • Fairbury News staff

Training for the worst

James Steidinger explains a fictional situation in which a train derails near Dave's Supermarket in Fairbury.

Mark Steffen doesn’t have to imagine what a train derailment near Dave’s Supermarket would be like since the store experienced it in 1979.

“It could’ve been real bad,” Steffen told emergency officials gathered at the Fairbury fire station Monday night for the annual disaster planning meeting.

Luckily, no one was hurt in what was described at the time as the “Miracle on Third Street” although some vehicles were damaged, including a telephone truck.

“They were there the next day working on the tracks,” Steffen recalled.

This situation could happen again and that was the scenario presented to the group which included members of the Fairbury fire and police departments, SELCAS, the city council, city departments and county ESDA.

Firefighter James Steidinger outlined an imaginary situation where a junk truck dropped debris when traveling over the Second Street railroad crossing resulting in a train derailment with spilled grain all over the tracks.

“Once all of this comes to rest, there could potentially still be a lot of unstable equipment,” explained Josh Thomas with TP&W Railroad, who cautioned first responders to always keep in mind where they are located in relation to equipment.

Train derailments can be highly catastrophic at fast speeds but not so much when traveling slower through a town such as Fairbury.

“We are running 10 miles per hour through town,” noted Thomas. “Typically derailments, if they occur at that speed, are not as severe.”

Local emergency agencies would be responsible for tending to the injured and dealing with any fire but railroad officials would have to start the re-railing efforts and could arrive on the scene within an hour, depending on where they are located at the time.

Steffen said he would like to see big numbers on all of the Dave’s Supermarket doors and noted some staff members are trained in CPR. Justin Steffen reported the store does have a disaster plan in place with information to read over the intercom but a situation such as this would warrant a safe and quick evacuation.

Fairbury ESDA Director Deb Moran has a disaster plan for the city and makes corrections each year to names and phone numbers among other information. She felt the evening was successful with around 50 people in attendance.

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