HUNTERDON COUNTY, NJ – Hunterdon County’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) recently met with local OEM and municipal officials from the seven municipalities in the county traversed by the Norfolk Southern Lehigh Line, to review the county’s existing train derailment response plan.
Commissioner John E. Lanza, the Board’s liaison for the Department of Public Safety, said, “The forum was extremely well attended by local officials and provided an opportunity for mission essential personnel to understand key elements of the response plan, including the role and responsibilities of responding agencies. Elements reviewed with the participants included the incident management organization that would be employed to coordinate the response; how information would be conveyed to the public; decision-making pertaining to shelter-in-place or evacuation measures; and specifics on the rail system in each municipality. The number one take away from the session should be that there is a well vetted emergency response plan in place should a train derailment ever happen here.”
Hunterdon’s Director of the Department of Public Safety and OEM Coordinator Brayden Fahey, who led the session, said, “The County’s OEM team has long been prepared and has a response plan in place for the four rail lines operating in the county. Additionally, a regional response plan and coordination strategy was established in 2017 for Hunterdon, Warren, Sussex, and Somerset Counties. The Board of Commissioners directed that the response plan be reviewed with the seven municipalities in the County where the rail line traverses 20 miles of track, including Bloomsbury Borough, and Bethlehem, Union, Franklin, Clinton, Readington and Raritan Townships.”
The Lehigh Line is the major regional rail line connecting the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton and Newark metropolitan areas. The Class I railroad transports millions of tons of goods annually, including some hazardous materials.
Participants at the session from all seven communities included the Chiefs of Police, Fire and EMS and their agency representatives, local governing body officials and emergency management coordinators, and New Jersey State Police personnel affiliated with the New Jersey’s Office of Emergency Management.
Franklin Township Mayor Phil Koury, a participant in the session, said, “All the attendees were most appreciative of this timely session. It is re-assuring to know that the County’s OEM group has plans in place for this type of significant incident.”