Bear Creek preparing for disasters with grant

Showing the close proximity of the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks to Phillips Schools in Bear Creek, are, from left, Bear Creek Police Chief Eddie Collins, Mayor Rob Taylor and High School Principal Dr. Al Temple.

BEAR CREEK    -  The time to think about catastrophic events-- such as train derailments-- is before they occur.
That is why the Town of Bear Creek has launched Project Be Prepared, thanks to a $5,000 Safety First grant provided  by Norfolk Southern Railroad.
The funding is being used in a joint police/fire department effort to coordinate effective response in stages during a major trauma incident or where multiple people need first aid.
Norfolk Southern has officially launched two new grant programs for first responders and community organizations across its 22-state network: 1) Safety First and 2) Thriving Communities.
The Safety First grant is designed to advance safety organizations and initiatives across the 22 states, with each grant totaling up to $15,000, supporting first responders, “that work tirelessly to prepare and prevent emergencies and ensure community safety,” according to a press release issued by Norfolk Southern.
“We are always looking for new ways to advance safety and nurture thriving communities across our 22-state network,” noted Kristin Wong, director of corporate giving at Norfolk Southern.
Applications for these grants were only available through Nov. 15, according to Norfolk Southern.
Bear Creek is similar to several of its neighboring communities, such as Haleyville and Lynn, which all have Norfolk Southern railroad tracks traveling directly through the heart of their communities.  Along with this convenience come dangers that have struck  a nerve with the Town of Bear Creek’s police and fire departments.
“Everybody thinks about the active shooter. A lot of people don’t think about the aftermath of the active shooter,” stressed Bear Creek Police Chief Eddie Collins.
“Once the active shooter becomes neutral, you have the possibility of large-scale trauma, medical needs, triage, not only in an active shooter situation, but if we had a major incident at any of these plants,” Collins stated, referring to businesses in town.
Town officials sat down and worked  on a program so adequate equipment and supplies would be in place to set up triage (taking care of most urgent needs first) or provide first aid to at least 40 people until additional agencies could arrive and provide assistance.
“These situations work a lot like a haz mat  situation.  You have zones,” Collins noted.
For instance, a hot zone is where the active shooter is believed to be located; a warm zone is where people may be injured, but  in a separate area from the shooter, with a cold zone described as the location where the injured will be taken, Collins explained.
“If we have the situation contained into one area and it has started in a different area, we can have our firefighters who are trained to do triage and trauma treatment, to be escorted by law enforcement into the warm zone,” Collins explained.
The hot zone remains hot until the shooter has been neutralized, he noted.
After developing a list of the equipment needed for such situations, Bear Creek officials sought funding, with Mayor Rob Taylor seeing on social media that Norfolk Southern offered a Safety First grant.
Collins applied for the grant on Nov. 3, and found out the town had been awarded $5,000 the first of December.
“The grant actually closed on (Nov.) 15, so we were lucky to even get in to get the grant,” he said.
The $5,000 provided by Norfolk Southern will go a long way to help provide for equipment needed in mass trauma- type situations, authorities said.
This equipment includes ballistic vests, Level 3 soft vests for firefighters, at least 40 trauma kits containing all necessary first aid supplies and other emergency supplies such as BleedStop and chest compression bandages.
“Everything to treat one person is in each bag,” Collins noted.
Also provided in the grant are multiple trauma tents, soft stretchers, bandages and wraps.
The 50 triage tags provided through the grant will be used to make sure an itemized list has been compiled and proper notations made concerning the condition of each injured person.
“Norfolk Southern, (tracks) come right through town,” Collins stated. “This (funding) is not just for an active shooter. It’s for any major multiple trauma situation where you’ve got multiple people injured.
“It could be a train derailment,” Collins continued. “It could be a tornado.”

2013 train derailment caused mass evacuations

Bear Creek knows all too well what can happen in a train derailment.  In May, 2013, 13 boxcars of a Norfolk Southern train traveling through the heart of Bear Creek derailed, coming off the tracks and digging into the pavement and ground.
This incident did not result in any injuries, and it was determined that the train had not been transporting any hazardous chemicals or substances.
However, until these things were known, precautionary measures resulted in the evacuation of all students and staff at nearby Phillips Schools, as well as downtown businesses and residences within a close proximity to the derailment.
One plan in Project Be Prepared is to have a drone fly over Phillips Schools and identify specific areas of the building to form a layout map so first responders will have more detailed information if an active shooter was, for instance, in the hallway by the cafeteria, officials said.
The layout will also be beneficial in the event of an evacuation, according to school officials.
Part of the school’s evacuation plan is to go down County Highway 79, which runs beside the school, Phillips High School Principal Dr. Al Temple said.
“We can’t stop every incident, like a train derailment.  We may not be able to control that, but we can control how we react to it and how prepared we are for it,” Temple pointed out.


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