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Monday, December 29, 2014

Railroad 101: “A Train Wreck”

Communication with the railroad is critical to everyone's safety.
Occasionally first responders describe a recent call as “a train wreck.” Of course typically they were not referring to an actual problem with a railroad, but rather they are referring to a car crash, fire scene, hazmat scene, or tactical operation. The term has come to mean a complicated, serious, difficult, and dangerous call that taxed the responder’s abilities to safely handle it.

CP Rail held two of their “Railroad 101” classes at the SCALE Training Center near Jordan recently, and the attendees learned about handling real train wrecks, as well as other emergencies on the railroad right-of-way. Ed Dankbar, a HazMat Field Specialist for CP Rail, walked the class through how railroads work and what the responders needed to know to operate safely around trains and on railroad property. The content shared was a mixture of new information, as well as a reinforcement for existing protocols of situational awareness, communication, incident command, pre-planning, and importance of scene size-up.

A Union Pacific Crossing ID number.
Communication of Location
One of the key takeaways from the class was the importance of quickly letting the railroad know the location of the incident—in railroad terms. Telling them “County Road 10 at the tracks” is not very helpful, nor is the number on the locomotive. Instead, the class covered where to find the “DOT Crossing Location Numbers” and mile posts, and how to communicate that to the railroad so they can stop other rail traffic in the area and respond to the incident with their resources.

Mr. Dankbar explained the importance of first responders using their four gas meters to determine if there is anything in the air that is hazardous. The meter can provide the IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health) numbers for four common gases.

There was information on how to find and read the “waybills” to learn what materials are in what cars on the train. The class covered locomotives, brake systems, couplings, and all types of rail cars, including pressure and non-pressure tank cars. It covered how the railroad handles hazardous materials and outlined the expected response from the railroads in a serious emergency.

The class asked questions, and all of them volunteered to stay after the class ended to learn more about the emergency response and equipment available from the railroad. It was an excellent course, and it gave the responders the knowledge on how to safely manage an emergency scene involving a railroad.

If you would like a similar course in your area, you can contact:

CP Rail Community Connect


                                    Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up Next…Envelope Stuffing: The LMCIT Dividends Have Been Mailed!

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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