EAST POINT, Ga. - Firefighters got real-world training they hope never to have to use in one of Norfolk Southern’s railyards in East Point Tuesday afternoon.
The training comes a little more than four months after a devastating derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, which displaced about 5,000 residents.
"We can do better," said Alan Shaw, CEO of Norfolk Southern, promising changes. "This is an effort to make [communities] safer."
Metro Atlanta is a major freight rail hub - and also where the company is headquartered.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp joined firefighters and state transportation and emergency management officials on a specially designed train that gives first responders an up-close look at how rail transport works and how they can prepare for worst-case scenarios.
"We work in the what-if industry. You never know what we’re going to face every day," said Lieutenant Scott Zoebisch of the East Point Fire Department.
He said the training was much-needed.
"We always see [the railyard], we always pass by, we may do a pre-incident plan, but this is very rare that we actually get the chance to come out here," Zoebisch said.
First responders in metro Atlanta came together to get real world training in case of a train derailment at the Norfolk Southern’s railyards in East Point on June 6, 2023. (FOX 5)
The Ohio derailment resulted in a toxic environmental catastrophe and brought intense scrutiny to Norfolk Southern and the railroad industry overall.
In an effort to rectify the situation, the company has established a multi-million dollar reimbursement fund to address the damages caused in East Palestine.
However, the company’s lawyers are asking a judge to dismiss a class-action lawsuit involving 500,000 residents near the wreck.
FOX 5 asked Shaw why that is.
"That’s part of the legal process," he responded. "We’ve made a commitment to do what’s right over the long term. This changes nothing."
A spokesperson for Norfolk Southern said the train would make roughly 15 other stops in communities throughout the rest of the country this year to educate first responders and local officials.