Initially, local emergency services handled the accident, including inspecting the wreck for signs of any hazardous material leaks. The responding team assumed the LPG tank car was a double-wall tank car; however, it was a single-wall car.

At 5:10 a.m. on February 23, after a previous miscommunication regarding hazardous material being present, the Tennessee Office of Civil Defense (now the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency) sent out a hazmat team to assess the situation. They concurred with the local officials' decision to keep the tank cars cool by spraying them with streams of water, and the decision was made to evacuate a 1⁄4-mile (0.40 km) area around the derailment zone, with gas and electric service to the area shut off.

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