The fiery derailment of an oil train in Lynchburg,Virginia last week, has local emergency officials elsewhere concerned about their ability to respond to such accidents.

Deputy Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator for Missoula County Adriene Beck, said that authorities at all levels are aware of the potential dangers represented by oil trains that travel through the Missoula area.

"Certainly, we're aware of the hazards of crude-oil trains transported by Montana Rail Link", Beck said. "We don't have anywhere near as many oil trains as there are on the northern line. However, we work with Montana Rail Link along with our local emergency planning committee, comprised of Rain Link, the bulk plant and the pipeline folks, and we meet quarterly to discuss the hazards that are real and present in Missoula County and how we might respond."

Beck said Missoula County is home to a top-notch hazardous materials response team.

"Here in Missoula County, we have one of the state's regional haz-mat teams that are capable of being deployed. In addition, Montana Rail Link has a very good prevention and safety program, and they have equipment and personnel necessary for those things, as well."

Beck speculated on the response to an actual emergency.

"Fire and police would be sent to the scene where an evaluation would be made, and if evacuations were called for public safety, we would ask residents to heed those warnings," Beck said. "The 9-1-1 center would put out alerts and warnings to the public and authorities would evacuate the areas affected by the incident, as warranted by the hazard."

Beck said all decisions would be made on the basis of what would be best for public safety.

Deputy Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator for Missoula County Adriene Beck