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Virginia looks to improve emergency response at rail accidents

A Nevada National Guardsman with the 92nd Civil Support Team conducts a simulated search and rescue at a vacant building near the Community College of Aurora, Colo., July 23, 2013, during a notional F4 tornado as part of Colorado's 2013 Vigilant Guard exercise. Vigilant Guard is a series of federally funded disaster-response drills conducted by National Guard units working with federal, state and local emergency management agencies and first responders. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares/Released)

Safety oversight may be a federally regulated responsibility for railway traffic like hazmats and crude oil.

However, responding to an actual derailment and possible fires and evacuations of nearby people is the clear responsibility of local community and state agencies. Governors, mayors, and fire fighters are wrestling with technical issues on how to be better prepared. With or without federal help.

Here, briefly, is how rail experts in Virginia see the local and state technical issues. Other states like Pennsylvania and Minnesota are tacking the question for their elected officials. Reports from those states on improving and managing rail safety are expected later this month.