Dalyrmple leads mock oil train disaster exercise; more than 150 officials take part

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — Gov. Jack Dalrymple said he called on more than 150 officials to test and review the state's emergency preparedness base on an oil train disaster in the state.

Dalrymple participated in the four-hour Wednesday exercise that required officials to respond to derailments and explosions of crude oil train cars in Bismarck and in Fargo.

The exercise is aimed at improving the response to accidents like a Dec. 30 crash outside of Casselton, a small town west of Fargo, that left an ominous cloud over the town and led some residents to evacuate. It was one of at least eight major accidents in the past 12 months that involved trains transporting oil, including an explosion last July of Bakken crude in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.

"These exercises are critical to the evaluation and continued enhancement of our emergency readiness," Dalrymple said in a statement. "We must always work to improve our emergency preparedness for a wide range of events and that includes railway accidents. At the same time we will continue to work with our congressional delegation, federal agencies, community leaders and the railroad industry to improve the safety of tank cars and to enhance track maintenance programs."

The drill was based at the operations center of North Dakota's Department of Emergency Services with videoconferencing connections to local officials in Fargo and Bismarck. Emergency responders from several other counties also observed the exercise and served as evaluators.

Dalrymple and the state Department of Emergency Services have held similar exercises to test responses to tornadoes, floods and other train derailments.

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