N.C. State to Hold Derailment Disaster Drill

University's exercise prepares for possibility of hazardous derailment on campus


North Carolina State University partakes in disaster training exercises routinely, and on March 13, various departments on campus, along with other local agencies, will participate in a train derailment exercise.

"We have a train that runs in Central Campus that could cause catastrophic events," said Katina Blue, director of business continuity and disaster recovery.

According to Blue, the North Carolina Emergency Management Department of Homeland Security awarded the University a $90,000 grant, which the University is using for this exercise.

David Rainer, associate vice chancellor for environmental health and safety, said the grant helped the University carry out the drill on a larger scale.

"What the grant allowed us to do is include more groups and agencies [in the drill]," he said.

Blue said her department hired a vendor, Beck Disaster Recovery.

"This vendor will have a facilitator in each room simulating through discussion-based exercise what would happen," Blue said

According to Blue, representatives from other campuses in the UNC system will participate in the drill, as well as executive officers from N.C. State and representatives from Campus Police, the Fire and Safety Department, Athletics, Carmichael Gymnasium, Human Resources, Facilities, Transportation, Dining and Housing.

Rainer said the University views all drills as training exercises.

The University participated in a train derailment drill six to seven years ago, Rainer said, in cooperation with the Raleigh Fire Department and Wake County Emergency Management, on a smaller scale than the one planned for March 13.

He said the train derailment drill is an event where participants will "sit around with experts, discuss the scenario, the 'what if,' and determine how to respond [to the situation]."

"We're not expecting [a derailment] certainly, but the reality is the train goes through campus," Rainer said.

The University, he said, has conducted "operational" drills, which are different than tabletop drills in that operational drills create actual simulations.

According to Rainer, the Raleigh Police Department ran an operational "terrorism" drill two summers ago in Carter-Finley Stadium. Officials conducted a simulation of an attack at the University where some were taken as hostages and others were injured.

Rainer said officers, University officials and students took part in this drill.

Students will not play a major participatory role in the train derailment drill, Blue said, aside from the Student Media members, whom the officials want to work with to see how they would deal with the media in that type of disaster situation.

"We will have close to 200 participants," she said. "The media will also be there to put people on the spot."

Blue did say, however, that one student contacted her with interest in the drill and will participate March 13.

"If we did have a [derailment] to happen in reality ... we can see what kinds of things we might not be thinking about that a student can bring to the table," she said.

Rainer said students do not play a major role in tabletop drills, unlike operational drills.

"Most of our drills involve the University decision-makers and the outside agencies of decision-makers," he said.

According to Rainer, in the case of a derailment, students would be affected, but the decision-makers will be the ones in the room who have to respond.

Blue said her department facilitates drills like these all the time and makes sure all 390 departments on campus have contingency plans and "work-around procedures," so that they know how to respond in the event of a disaster.

"We help the departments identify what risks could bring down their services," she said.

(C) 2007 Technician via U-WIRE