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Transportation Security Administration

Train derailment drill prepares TSA’s local partners

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Down by the tracks

A commuter train derails, causing all types of injuries, chaos and strain on the local emergency response system. It’s a frightening scene our rail system, communities and first responders need to prGroup of respondersepare for.

TSA’s Intermodal Security Training and Exercise Program (I-STEP) partnered with Chicago Metra to conduct a train derailment exercise in Mokena, Illinois. Over 100 people participated in the drill, including Metra employees, local fire and police, the Mokena Town Council, Public Works, Building Department, and Will County Emergency Management Agency.

Chicago Metra is the fourth busiest commuter rail system in the country and the largest and busiest commuter rail system outside the New York City metropolitan area. Metra operates 242 stations on 11 different rail lines.

The goal of the I-STEP exercise was for Metra to strengthen its security plans and emergency procedures and sharpen its incident management skills in the event of a commuter rail emergency or threat. Metra and Mokena Village officials also convened an Executive Policy Group to review response policies.

Metra’s executive team discussed whether they should shut down their rail lines if they have a security incident like the one in the drill. It’s a tough decision to make. Completely stopping rail operations would have a huge impact on commuters.

The drill helped Metra, emergency responders, law enforcement, and local government officials assess security plans and emergency procedures to improve coordination, enhance Emergency Response Vehiclessecurity capabilities, and apply lessons learned to identify needed areas of improvement, proving just how valuable these I-STEP exercises are to the traveling public.

“This exercise demonstrated the strong partnership between federal, state and local entities coming together to test preparedness and operational coordination in the event of a terrorist incident impacting the railroads,” said Mass Transit Industry Engagement Manager Chris McKay with TSA’s Policy, Plans and Engagement.

TSA teams with surface transportation operators across the country to enhance their security and provides training and security planning tools and services.

“The mass transit and passenger rail community conducts exercises regularly,” said McKay. “These exercises help agencies identify strengths and areas for improvement and continue to be a regular part of their corporate security posture.”

“The exercise will live on through a continued collaborative partnership between Metra and the Village of Mokena,” said I-STEP Lead Program Analyst Marie Binder-Sealy. “The exercise strengthened their reassurance of working together to respond to security incidents which is key for emergency response.”