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The Center for Rural Development recently provided a training class to emergency responders in McDonough County, Illinois through our partner, the Security and Emergency Response Training Center. The Responding to Incidents Involving Flammable Liquids Transported by Rail classes are funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“The Center provides this course and many others to emergency responders in rural and tribal areas across the Nation. It is great to see The Center’s Public Safety initiatives having an impact on these communities. We strive to help the people in these communities feel safer and be better prepared for the unexpected.” said Lonnie Lawson, President and CEO of The Center for Rural Development.

The local news station in McDonough County, WGEM, attended the training and conducted interviews with the instructor, Joe Bartholomew and the McDonough County Emergency Manger, Edgar Rodriguez. The interviews highlighted the impact that this course is having on rural communities. The story from WGEM is included below.


Trains travel in and around the Tri-States, some may pass by your house. Many of them are carrying a number of different types of items and materials. Some of those materials could be hazardous if spilled which is why McDonough County first responders took time today to train in case that happens.

Security and Emergency Response Training Center Instructor Joe Bartholomew said Saturday’s class in McDonough County taught emergency response officials what to look for to see if a derailed train is carrying something that could be deadly to you.

“Our class here is to teach them if a flammable liquids train or a train carrying any other kind of material would tip over, how to deal with not only derailment,” said Bartholomew, “but how to deal with local railroad and other agencies to come in and handle a situation of large magnitude.”

McDonough County Emergency Manager Edgar Rodriguez said classes like the one today help them prepare for incidents like the one that happened in January.

Shot of the incident in January from the WGEM news drone

“We had 136 closed for about 3-4 days, on and off open, and that effected our community,” said Rodriguez, adding that luckily the derailment between Adair and Table Grove, Illinois in January didn’t involve any dangerous materials, but if it had the situation could’ve ended up much worse.

That’s why they took the opportunity to come together with surrounding counties to hold the class with funds from the federal government to keep people safe if something like that happens again.

“Having this information ahead of time, learning what we can prepare to do ahead of time, and what to expect with these kind of events and what to look for also ahead of time is [invaluable] for our communities,” said Rodriguez.

Bartholomew said the class is important for emergency responders anywhere a freight rail passes through a community.

“If you don’t do this and this thing happens, you’re not prepared– so this is a [preparation] class, it trains them to be ready, to be prepared, and to respond,” said Bartholomew.

The course took about 8 hours to complete, instructors say the biggest take-aways are utilizing planning, communication, and coordination in order to adapt to a developing situation.

Follow the link below to view the video interviews.