Mar 31

Battle Creek Fire trained, prepared to respond to emergencies including train derailment

Posted on March 31, 2023 at 11:36 AM by Eric McClure

It is safe to say that all of us wait at train crossings regularly as we travel around the city. Some of us find the train whistles a comforting part of our city’s character, and some of us probably find them an annoying reminder that the trains can delay our travels.

Battle Creek is a popular travel point for rail because of our location between Detroit and Chicago. 

However you feel about our train traffic day-to-day, you might also feel worried after hearing recent news of multiple train derailments, especially with one reported in Michigan and a hazardous derailment in Ohio. 

There is not a simple answer to explain how we would handle a train derailment in Battle Creek, but we want to share some information that we hope will give you peace of mind that we are ready to address any emergency. 

If a derailment happens, here is a series of events we expect would follow:

  1. The response likely will start with a 911 call (or more than one).
  2. The Battle Creek Fire Department will respond. Once they realize it is a rail/train incident, they will escalate the response as needed, with more fire crews, or other responders.
  3. The BCFD will assess if the train is carrying hazardous materials – we have a Hazardous Materials Team, and they have an emergency response plan for this type of situation. They would request the train’s Hazardous Goods Manifest to understand what the train was carrying.
  4. Depending on the level of need, we could call in resources from regional, state, or federal partners. We would activate an Emergency Operations Center – a more formalized way to involve city staff and community partners – for the best response.

Canadian National is the rail company responsible for most of the tracks in Battle Creek, other than Amtrak. Norfolk Southern also can run trains on those tracks. 

We work with rail providers like CN to plan and prepare for potential incidents. Our BCFD Haz-Mat Team trains regularly so we can handle rail emergencies, and we receive commodity flow studies to help make sure our plans specifically fit our community. Those studies provide information about the type and amount of hazardous materials moving through. 

All hazardous materials on a train would fall into U.S. Department of Transportation hazard categories. Our main concern would be materials that can catch fire, and we would need information about potential environmental impacts during a spill.

Our Haz-Mat Team has trained on emergency scenarios with TRANSCAER (outreach program Transportation Community Awareness Emergency Response), and at the Specialized Emergency Response Training Center in Pueblo, Colo. Our team also is part of a statewide mutual aid system. That means we have access to other communities’ fire department resources if we experience a large, major incident, and we could help others in a similar situation. Our Emergency Management team, via our Battle Creek Police Department, also would activate and help manage this type of situation.

Two people in blue hazardous suits training on top of a rail tanker car.

Firefighters training with TRANSCAER.

Firefighters sitting at tables looking at a presentation on screen in a training room.

Battle Creek firefighters participate in classroom training.

It is good to remember that not every derailment involves hazardous materials, and not every tanker train car carries hazardous materials. 

Whatever the situation, our emergency and hazardous materials teams are well-trained and ready to respond.

While it’s difficult to get local freight statistics, we do have some information about rail in Michigan. We compiled some of these into a graphic.

Jan 24

Letter to the Battle Creek Police team, and Battle Creek and Bedford Township communities

Posted on January 24, 2023 at 11:20 AM by Jessica VanderKolk

Shannon BagleyTo the Battle Creek Police team, and the Battle Creek and Bedford Township communities:

I feel honored and humbled to serve as your interim chief of police. I am blessed to have this opportunity and I am excited to serve in a new role. The Battle Creek Police Department is an outstanding organization. The people who work for the department are second to none and the BCPD is in an exceptional position. This is a direct result of the vision, dedication, and leadership of Chief Jim Blocker. I look forward to continuing the momentum generated by Chief Blocker’s efforts.

The foundation of a police department is its relationship with the community it serves. The BCPD will continue to work with the community and our staff to grow and strengthen this bond. We will work together to further build an organization that is transparent, responsive, accountable, innovative and energetic in the delivery of public safety services in Battle Creek and Bedford Township.

The BCPD will be smart in its operations, judicious in how it allocates resources, accountable and transparent. To fulfill our mission, the department’s staff and the people who live in our coverage area will have a voice in the strategic planning process and the operations of the department. This process will be inclusive and reflect the diversity of our community and the talent of our officers.

The future holds much promise.  Moving forward, we must understand what works organizationally, how it works and where it works. The answer to these questions will provide the framework of our operations. To succeed we must design our programs for flexibility, use innovative ideas, identify outdated approaches, take risks, and continually evaluate our processes. We must use real-time, accurate and actionable data as the platform for our decision-making and actions. This information will be available to the community via a new “Outward Facing Neighborhood Dashboard”. This data will provide neighborhoods with details of where and when crime is occurring, making them aware and keeping them informed. 

The primary responsibility of the Battle Creek Police Department is public safety achieved by reducing crime, fear and disorder. Integral to that responsibility is a department that conducts its activities lawfully and constitutionally while ensuring everyone is treated with dignity and respect.  We will be a police department that protects individual rights and freedoms, as well as values the contributions made by every member of the organization and community members. Our mission will be built on integrity, accountability, transparency and respect.

As the department serves the community you can expect excellence from our sworn and civilian members. Paramount to achieving our mission to provide the very best possible service is recruiting, hiring and retaining a diverse and professional workforce. Training and education must be an integral part of our development as an organization. We will modernize equipment and technology to support our staff as we implement public safety strategies.  Our leadership team will work diligently to ensure staff is accountable to each other and the community we serve.

Three principles will guide our efforts and serve as the cornerstones for developing programs, pursuing opportunities and delivering enhanced services to Battle Creek and Bedford Township.


To have more effective community collaboration, the BCPD’S priority will be building and maintaining relationships with our neighbors and business owners who live and work in Battle Creek and Bedford Township. We will be intentional and inclusive with neighborhood outreach and engagement. We will work alongside community members to solve problems and celebrate success. The Battle Creek Police Department will be accessible, inclusive, transparent and effective in its communication and practices.

We will reduce crime and improve public safety with lawful practices that respect all who live here, as well as visitors, and ensure the safety of our officers.

We will build trust between the community and the BCPD, and we will do so in a constitutional, consistent and compassionate manner.


Public safety is the responsibility of the entire community. Neighbors, parents, youth, business owners, educators, and community leaders all play a role in keeping the community safe. The BCPD will work diligently to create and sustain the kind of partnerships necessary to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. 

We will collaborate with our partners in the social service and public health communities to address the challenges posed by mental health, developmental disabilities, domestic violence, drug, and alcohol dependency. We will increase our ability to respond to individuals in crisis by growing the number of officers trained in behavioral emergency response.   Additionally, BCPD recently was awarded a grant related to these situations. We are currently working with our partners in developing a Community Crisis Response Team. This team will be located in our Fusion Center and work closely with our partners throughout the county to provide individuals with the appropriate resources for better outcomes.

We will also work with existing partners and create new partnerships to develop and implement programs focused on preventing youth violence and their involvement in the criminal justice system.

Smart Policing

Data, information, intelligence and evidence-based practices will guide our strategies and tactics. We will track, report and respond to crime using a management model that looks at crime daily and uses multi-agency strategies to direct our resources and address the persons, activities and places that are disrupting the quality of life in our neighborhoods. 

The department’s crime prevention and reduction strategies will be based on:

  • Accurate and timely information
  • Community collaboration and problem solving
  • Rapid deployment of resources
  • Effective and procedurally just tactics
  • Relentless follow-up and assessment

We must continuously review and refine our policies, procedures, and operations to increase efficiency and effectiveness. We will look for opportunities to reduce bureaucracy and operating costs. We will ensure that the right people with the appropriate training are in the right positions to successfully execute and assess the implementation of our action plan.  We will develop our future leaders by exposing them to public safety best practices.

We will adopt and promote a mindset of never being satisfied with “good enough”. We will invite our employees to challenge assumptions based on past experiences and scrutinize “the way we’ve always done things”. By committing to creativity and innovation, we will challenge our most basic assumptions – test, tweak and redesign our core activities. We will create a culture of performance and service.

The future holds tremendous opportunities, but there will be challenges. However, the members of the Battle Creek Police Department, working in partnership with the community, will meet these moments head-on. The BCPD will deliver the level of service our neighbors, business, and visitors deserve.

Shannon Bagley
Interim Chief
Battle Creek Police Department

Dec 16

City shares 2022 National Community Survey results

Posted on December 16, 2022 at 10:23 AM by Jessica VanderKolk

City leaders are pleased to share the results from this year’s National Community Survey, which gives neighbors a chance to share ratings and opinions on city services and Battle Creek generally.

We share the top highlights below, and the full results report is available on the city’s website. Reports from previous surveys also are available.

Stay tuned for additional information and discussions around how we will use these results in our projects and services. We appreciate every neighbor who participated! Thank you!

The city again worked with The NCS, provided by the National Research Center at Polco. While the city customized a small number of questions to seek input on particular issues, the majority of the questions remain the same, allowing us to make meaningful comparisons with our previous NCS results from 2018 and 2015.

While our goal is to ask your input on this survey every three years, the COVID-19 pandemic and other city needs delayed us from 2021 to 2022. We already have plans for the next National Community Survey in 2025.


Some notable, overall highlights for us this year:

  • Safety is a continued priority for our community. About 9 in 10 neighbors said the overall safety of Battle Creek should be a focus priority over the next two years. This is similar to the response in 2018, and related survey question results remain stable. 
     This information may help inform a current project in the city, a police/fire/EMS services study, to make sure those services best meet the needs of our community.
    Other safety-related highlights:
    1. About 4 in 10 neighbors gave positive ratings to the overall feeling of safety in Battle Creek.
    2. About 75% reported feeling safe in the neighborhood and commercial areas during the day.
    3. Nearly half felt very or somewhat safe from violent crime (48%) and property crime (45%)
  • Some aspects of our economy are on the rise, and this remains an important focus area for our community. Neighbors rated the overall health of our economy low – 17% excellent or good – and of high importance, at 91% essential or very important. We know that the COVID-19 pandemic likely had a high impact on these results.
    However, we saw significantly higher ratings around economic development, which speaks to the city’s and community’s great focus on attracting businesses to the city, and helping small businesses start and grow. Neighbors rated Battle Creek 51% excellent or good as a place to work – up over 10% from 2018. Neighbors rated employment opportunities (43%) and overall quality of business and service establishments (46%) about 20% higher than 2018 in both cases – a huge jump.
  • Neighbors value the ease of car travel here, but identify some opportunities for growth of related services. Survey questions around mobility in the city received similar ratings to previous years. Neighbors praised the ease of travel by car (75% excellent or good), and gave positive marks to traffic flow on major streets (60%), and ease of public parking (56%).
     Only about 4 in 10 neighbors were pleased with the ease of walking in the city, and the ease of travel by bike. About one-third gave positive marks to the ease of travel by public transportation and the overall quality of our transportation system. It is worth noting that 77% of neighbors said they have NOT used public transportation instead of driving in the last 12 months.
     Battle Creek Transit has worked hard in recent years to provide the best service to the community. Of note is that BCT continued operating through the pandemic, as other transit systems had to shut down. BCT also added the BCGo on-demand service, and increased fares for the first time in nearly 20 years, to make sure we can continue and improve operations.
     Neighbors might see additional polls about our transit services, so we can learn more about ways you think we can improve. Also watch for more information from BCT and other agencies around Calhoun County about the potential for a county-wide public transportation authority. We have helped study this idea, and agency leaders are having conversations with officials across the county.
    For street-related services, responses remain consistent since 2018, with room for improvement:
    1. Nearly half approve of snow removal services and street lighting
    2. Traffic signal timing – 42% excellent or good
    3. Traffic enforcement – 41% excellent or good
    4. Street cleaning – 36% excellent or good
    5. Street repair was the lowest-performing item in this set, at 13% excellent or good

We also asked some customized questions about traffic calming methods, an important issue in our neighborhoods. The overwhelming majority of neighbors (90%) report you support enhanced signage in the city. Additional traffic enforcement saw support from about 7 in 10 neighbors. Adding speed bumps (51%) and installing roundabouts (47%) received mixed reviews.

  • Not quite one-third of neighbors see excellent/good opportunities for education, culture, and the arts. Results were similar around opportunities to attend cultural/arts/music activities, and community support for the arts.
    We see an opportunity for growth here, as arts and culture is a goal important to our City Commission. A great addition to the community in recent years was the origami sculpture competition and display downtown. Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a gradual return of some of the great cultural and art events the community has been missing.
     This is an important goal to the community, too, with 80% saying these opportunities are essential/very important as a focus priority in the next two years.
  • From a communications and engagement perspective, we see a great opportunity for growth. Neighbors rated us higher than in 2018 for welcoming your involvement, but it still gives us much room for improvement at 34%. 
     We asked about neighbors’ sources of city information, and learned that the highest number of you (27%) don’t know how to receive city information, which prevents you from participating in our activities. You also reported in this question that local media outlets (78%) and direct mailings (85%) are a source of information for you.
     We plan to use this information to work on our communications to the community. To start, we are considering a direct-mailed community newsletter in 2023.

We are happy to see neighbors’ priorities in this year’s NCS match up with the priority city goals you helped us set last year in our priority-based budgeting process. More information is available at As a reminder, those goals are:

  • Economy
  • Safety
  • Transportation/Mobility
  • Utilities
  • Environment/Physical Appearance/Community Design
  • Arts and Culture
  • Recreation
  • Governance


Survey methods

The 2022 survey was mailed to a random sample of 2,700 city addresses. About 4% of those were returned as undeliverable or vacant, leaving 2,589 households receiving the survey. Of those, 290 completed the survey, giving us a response rate of 11%.

While the number of responses is lower than 2018, the margin of error is no greater than plus or minus 6% on any given question. Statistically, this gives a 95% level of confidence in our results as representative of the Battle Creek community, and we are pleased to have meaningful information.

Later in the process, the survey was posted online for anyone to complete, and saw a response of 420, slightly higher than 2018. We left the online version open for 10 weeks and, partway through, removed the requirement for respondents to give their email address, an NCS default procedure. We heard the feedback from neighbors that you did not want to do this, so we removed it.

The survey was available in Spanish and Burmese. Instructions in these languages were on the random sample mailings, allowing neighbors to complete the survey online in their language of choice. The open, online survey also gave neighbors the option to choose one of these languages.

Three neighbors completed the Spanish translation, and five completed the Burmese translation of the survey.