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Are we prepared for disasters?

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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Birmingham is contronted with potential hazards of large cargo both on its main thoroughfare, Woodward Avenue, but also by train, where tracks run along the eastern portion of the city, and by air, with the Oakland/Troy airport on Industrial Row Drive in Troy, just on the other side of Birmingham.

Connaughton and Assistant Chief Donohue said they are not told what cargo is coming through the city which could, and likely is, hazardous on a daily or weekly basis. "Only if there's an accident," Connaughton said.

"There was a huge trainwreck in the late 1990s, where multiple cars derailed, all cargo," he recalled. "One of the transport cargo cars was automotive, and had pickup trucks which caught fire. One of the cars had chemicals that caught fire. Hazmat responded and took care of that. We've had no major hazmat incident in years on any of our major roads."

"But anytime there's a vehicle accident, there's potential for a gasoline spill, which is a hazardous material, but it's not a classic hazmat incident," Donohue said, noting they still take hazmat precautions.

Bloomfield Township, which like other municipalities conducts drills for any and all possible risks, is most concerned about flooding, which affects a good amount of the township. Their Hazard Mitigation Plan, revised in February 2017, and approved by their board of trustees this summer, focuses on flooding, hazmat incidents, fire hazards, infrastructure failures, including gasline and petroleum accidents, severe weather incidents, and transportation accidents. Included are also technological hazards, such as power outages, infrastucture failures, nuclear power plant accidents, oil and gas well accidents, pipeline accidents, and sewer problems. Human hazards include civil disturbances and criminal acts, including vandalism and arson. It touches on terrorism, from explosions, biological and chemical threats, nuclear blasts, and radiological dispersion device, or dirty bombs, but states, "these hazards were addressed in the Oakland County Threats and Needs Assessment, which is a homeland security and law enforcement sensitive document, and therefore, not available to the public. For this reason, the information in these documents is not included in this plan."

Instead, Bloomfield Township's focus is on saving local lives and protecting property while preserving and protecting the local environment and its economy. The plan, developed by engineering consultant Hubbell Roth & Clark, "The Hazard Mitigation Plan was created to help Bloomfield Township better understand the natural, technological, and human hazards that may affect the community, and the impacts they may have. Also, this report identifies ways to mitigate these impacts to protect the health, safety, and economic interests of the community."

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