Facts from the Federal Government

In support of Mohawk Valley Health System President/CEO Darlene Stromstad’s recent “Just the Facts,” publication, we would like to address the often-repeated concern about building a hospital in Downtown Utica because of the CSX/Amtrak rail line.

#mvhsdowntown’s opponents on Facebook claim that the project site is within a “federally mandated evacuation zone,” but the link they provide to back up this claim (https://www.stand.earth/page/people-vs-big-oil/stop-oil-trains/do-you-live-oil-train-blast-zone) is not from the federal government. It is the work of stand.earth, an advocacy group that created the terms “red zone” and “blast zone” to support its primary goal, “challenging the fossil fuel industry . . . [and working] to defeat existing and proposed transportation infrastructure like oil trains . . . “ The group created a specific website address, blast-zone.org, and the terms used on it. (CTV Television report, August 19, 2014).

In short, #mvhsdowntown opponents have repeatedly claimed, falsely, that a federal government “blast” or “red” zone evacuation mandate exists.

It does not. 

Here’s what the US Department of Transportation actually says about emergency response to toxic spills, fires, explosions, etc.

“For some cases, evacuation may be the best option; in others, sheltering in-place may be the best course. Sometimes, these two actions may be used in combination . . . Adjusting [evacuation] distances for a specific incident involves many interdependent variables and should be made only by personnel technically qualified to make such adjustments.”

In fact, evacuation decisions in the event of an emergency are the responsibility of local responders. Large institutions and employers, including area colleges and hospitals, work closely with law enforcement and emergency responders to maintain “emergency action plans” that prepare for incidents up to and including worst-case scenarios. And our local “personnel technically qualified” (as the federal government describes them)  emergency response officials have stated that #mvhsdowntown opponents’ claims are without merit.

These are the facts.

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