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Train Collision in Graniteville, South Carolina

It was way back on the 6th of January in the year 2005 when a train tragedy occurred in Graniteville area of South Carolina and thus came to be known as Graniteville train disaster. It happened when two trains from Norfolk Southern clashed near a constitute belonging to Avondale Mills (Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, 2005). These trains were train Number P22 and Train Number 192.

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The accident happened when train Number 192 that was channeling Chlorine natural gas, Methyl Phenol and Sodium hydrated Oxide got deviated by a railway switch that had been delineated wrongly on the sidetrack and clashed with train Number P22 that had been packed on the sidetrack close to the Avondale Mills Constitute (United States Federal Railroad Administration, 2005). The clash caused the two trains to run off the tracks alongside 16 out of the 42 192’s cargo vehicles and one of two of P22’s cargo vehicles (Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, 2005).

A tank vehicle of belonging to train Number 192 carrying 90 tonnes of chlorine burst letting out 60 tonnes of Chlorine gas. Eight lives were lost on the spot while one more life was lost some time later due to breathing in of Chlorine gas. At the least, 250 persons were subjected to a process of treatment due to the exposure they had to Chlorine gas. A total of 5,400 people living within one mile from the area of the disaster were coerced to vacate the area for almost a fortnight so as the place can be cleaned from the gas contamination.

This research is going to focus on my (assuming I were the fire chief) response towards the various documents that were written concerning the tragedy and how it was taken care of to correct the damages that had been caused. The following would have been my evaluation. First of all, it is very necessary for everyone to have the understanding that no man however sharp one can be to be is in a position to predict danger forehand.

Though protection is a good method of preventing accidents that cause havoc in our day to day lives, it is not always easy to predict the danger that we are likely to be faced with. With this in mind, it calls for readiness to face any of the dangers that we may encounter in life. Just like in the purchase of an insurance policy, one may purchase a policy against some given hazard probably one that seems to be the most common. But nobody knows about what life holds except God. One could be faced with the most unfortunate occurrence that is least expected. It is therefore a bit unfortunate to see that some people thought that the disaster was not well prepared for as depicted by several of their writings.

In my opinion, I would say that to some extent good measures were taken considering the urgency of the accident (Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, 2005). Though some people thought the tragedy was not given the right kind of attention, bearing in mind the degree of risk involved, I would say the response was very much timely. Some of the writers criticized that the way the emergency groups responded wasn’t efficient.

This I would totally disagree with because in the first place, even though this was a kind of an accident that had happened earlier on, may be the previous one was not as extensive as this one. More so, the accident was very risky to everyone’s life since it involved emission of chlorine gas to the air. It was hectic controlling the effects it was likely to have on people. Infact the team dealing with these emergency cases did a very good job seeing that they were able to even communicate to people advising them to stay indoors and to ensure that they blocked any ventilations in their houses that would let in the hazardous gas.

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It is therefore clear that the response from the emergency team was commendable bearing in mind that there was not any proper means of communication. I would like to suggest that in the future the firemen should devise another area where they can be making their reports. This is after seeing that the firemen got into a mix-up at some point because the tragedy occurred near the area where they were conditioned to gather in order to give an account of the happenings.

The fact that the tragedy was caused by arraying of the railway switch in the wrong manner is not a thing to be ignored. Mistakes that may appear so small can cause so big misfortunes. From the documents written about this tragedy, it is very clear from the investigations done that the gadget neither had a problem nor was any of the members of the group who operated it under the influence of anything be it a narcotic substance, exhaustion or alcoholic substance that it was found left in the wrong place (United States Federal Railroad Administration, 2005). They were very sober people from the report that was given after investigations that were done.

As a fire chief, I would urge those concerned to always take the right measures in their duties to prevent any other kind of an accident caused by such kind of negligence (Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, 2005). The law should be enforced here and the action to be taken upon those who break it and it should be set out clearly so that people will be more serious and cautious with the duties that concern them.

I also feel that people need to be properly taught by being trained on how they should behave in times of different categories of disaster. This could prevent further hazards since they will know the action to take. For example during that train tragedy, we find that there were people who were peeping through the windows of their houses and there can not lack others who opened the windows in order to see properly what was happening and this could have been so risky because it was allowing in the Chlorine gas in the rooms (United States Federal Railroad Administration, 2005).

As a fire chief I would recommend that railways being used by trains carrying such dangerous substances be constructed far away from residential houses and even manufacturing companies where there is likely to be a high population of people. Just incase there is no way out and that is not possible, there should be precautionary measures taken in order to prevent such like loses of lives incase of accidents as it happened.

These trains should also be fitted with gadgets that can be helpful incase of such an accident in the future. The decision to reduce the speed confines of the trains in town was also a very wise decision that was made and it needs to remain that way. The decision by Hunt (the Aiken region law enforcement officer) to have automatic phoning systems to alert the people of incase of any danger is highly welcomed. It is also a wise plan that these machines to be regularly checked to ensure they are always operational.

I may want as a fire chief to side with the local team dealing with fire emergencies but to some extent I would also question their preparedness on this accident. The fact that this was not the first incidence of a chlorine leak accident is a clear indication that the fire emergency team should have been ready to deal with this accident. There should have been measures that were taken and a consensus should have been gotten upon over the action that should be taken in case a tragedy of the kind happened in the days later (United States Federal Railroad Administration, 2005).

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It is always a wise thing to learn something and implement it whenever we encounter it since we can not be so sure that it will not occur again. On the hand, I must admit that it could have been tricky for the fire team to deal with the accident that was so urgent. This is due to the mere reason that it happened near the fire emergency premises and this caused a mix- up for some time. This gas was dangerous and also required that safety measures be taken to protect their lives and be in position to deal with the incident.

The fact that this accident happened in the middle of the night also complicated the issue since some people could have been sound asleep and therefore on getting up with a confused mind, it was reasonably possible that not all could have taken the right and necessary precautions to protect themselves from the dangers they were exposed to (United States Federal Railroad Administration, 2005).

We also find that the process of evacuating people from the area of the accident was not taken immediately, instead it was delayed. This too could have been an issue with their preparedness which again we can not blame the Sheriffs for because they had to plan on how to evacuate these people, from which area to begin and most importantly where to resettle them for the time being before things could be rectified back in their usual residential areas. The good part of it that shows of their efficiency is the fact that they had already devised on how to free the people from the area that was then rendered dangerous for their lives (United States Federal Railroad Administration, 2005).

The Sheriffs started with those who were so much near the tragedy and thus were more prone to the dangers of breathing in the dangerous gas than those who were a bit far from the area. At least the computerized system helped to hasten the process of getting people out of that area. Shifting people in groups was also a wise idea I as a fire chief would very much approve (United States Federal Railroad Administration, 2005).

In conclusion, I would like to commend the fire team and other emergency groups for the good work that they did to save lives. I believe the degree of loss of lives could have been higher if action was not taken. For those who lost their lives and others survived with health issues, it was a bit unfortunate since some just came into contact with the gas so fast that there was not time to save them. Others were in the process of trying to save their lives when it got worse beyond what they could handle (United States Federal Railroad Administration, 2005).

As I conclude, I would also urge everyone to learn to always take good care of the area they are responsible of maintaining or their working area to avoid accidents that could also cost the lives of many as it happened in this tragedy. It is also necessary for people to appreciate the efforts of others instead of always criticizing them. No man is at all perfect in this life.


Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration. (2005). Notice of safety advisory 2005-01: Position of switches in non-signaled territory. Web.

United States Federal Railroad Administration. (2005). Switch Safety Guidelines Issued to Railroad Industry to Prevent Train Accidents Caused by Misaligned Switches. Web.

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