Occasionally, we hear about a train derailment, or the spill of a hazardous material from a train car. Today, we will share typical instructions that are given to railroad personnel in case of such an occurrence. First, the train crew should notify the train dispatcher of such a derailment and the location where the train crew will meet the emergency response personnel.
SAFETY IS OF THE MOST IMPORTANCE. (THIS MEANS SAFETY TO YOU, THE OTHER EMERGENCY RESPONSE PERSONNEL AND THE PUBLIC.) THE FIRE CHIEF IS IN COMMAND – DO NOTHING WITHOUT HIS AUTHORITY.
As earlier mentioned, railroad authorities notify train personnel of such a derailment and the location of their crew. At the time the railroad company notifies the 911 dispatcher of a hazardous spill, the dispatcher must ask the railroad the location of the train conductor, who will have all the shipping papers in his possession.
Know what you are dealing with first; do not get over anxious and go into an area with a derailed car that has hazardous material leaking. Take note of the wind direction and which area should be evacuated first, should an evacuation be necessary. Establish a command center at this point and notify all people involved with this incident of its location. The evacuation should be handled by the local Police Department.
It is the primary job of the railroad personnel to protect the public from fumes, fire or possible explosion that may occur from a hazardous material spill. At some point the fire chief will determine if outside help (county, state, federal) is needed and notify the mayor to start the phone calls for assistance. Containment and blockades will be the responsibility of the public works department.
The spill area belongs to the emergency response personnel under the supervision of the fire chief until the proper hazardous material personnel arrive on the scene to take over. The fire chief still remains in command of the area until such time as he and other specialists consider it safe. Railroad personnel are highly trained and equipped for these situations, and should keep thing under control.
If EMS personnel and ambulances are not immediately needed, they should wait in the immediate area of the command center and at the fire chief’s disposal. Railroad company personnel should be equipped with the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) to ensure compliance with all safety requirements, as well as protection for their safety.
In the event of an accident involving a train, there is no place for onlookers. Keep a safe distance away, or find another route.
Source: Daniel Burlison – Retired Manager, Train Operations