Red Cross training drill brings hundreds

By: Melissa Correa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A train derails, spilling dangerous chemicals.

Everyone living within a 10 mile radius of the accident must evacuate.

The disaster scenario was just a drill Saturday but according to the American Red Cross, it could happen.

With a team of 275 volunteers, the Greater Richmond Chapter of the American Red Cross is prepping for disaster.

It's an annual training exercise but after earthquakes, severe weather and dozens of fires this year's training couldn't have come at a better time.

With just the clothes on their backs, hundreds of people are out of their homes to seek shelter at a local church.

"A train accident," said Red Cross spokesperson Bill Harrison. "It caught on fire and derailed and chemicals in that train spilled out."

Jim and Jeanne Underwood are two of the evacuees.

"I think it's a little calmer," said Jim. "It's not as stressed. It's a real relaxed atmosphere."

The American Red Cross is focused on meeting the needs of hundreds of people at once, a task which must be met during a train derailment, hurricane, flood or tornado.

"This is the largest disaster exercise ever to take place in the Commonwealth of Virginia," said Harrison.

People acting as evacuees walk through these doors.

They're greeted by an American Red Cross staff member who interviews them to see if they need to be seen by a doctor, need mental health services or are free to grab a meal.

The Virginia Baptist Mission Board has the meals under control.

"We have 12 standard meals that we draw from initially," said mission board spokesperson Patrick Johnson.

Today volunteers settled on serving pasta.

They have to be ready to respond to any location throughout Virginia.

Jim and Jeanne Underwood admit that today's train derailment has the couple re-evaluating their emergency plans.

"We're re-evaluating a lot," said Jim. "Like prescriptions; don't leave home without them."

The American Red Cross offers free help to people who want to create their own emergency plans.

You can find that information on their website.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.