Firefighters to attend train emergency response course

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007

In a town full of train tracks, the knowledge that someone knowshow to handle train emergencies is priceless.

The Brookhaven Fire Department has made train derailmenttraining a priority, with over 25 of the city’s firefighterscompleting a level one training course and six on the way to alevel two course later this month.

“In level one they learn the basics of how trains operate andhow to safely shut them down and notify the proper authorities,”said Training Coordinator Pierce Clark of the Meridian PublicSafety Training Facility, where the training courses are held.”They learn the different types of passenger cars and how to removevictims. It’s basic, but it’s very thorough.”

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Veteran firefighter Charles Francis, who will be attending thelevel two course March 27 through March 30, said the level onetraining helped him and his comrades feel much better about theircapabilities were Brookhaven to have a train derailment.

“It was really hands-on, and they even re-enacted a train wreckfor us to work so that it would be just like how it would be inreal life,” he said. “They had sleeper cars on their sides withdummies to rescue, and you don’t realize how crowded those thingsare until they’re laying on their side down a hill.”

Fellow firefighter Albert Brown Jr. has also attended the levelone training. He said the real-life situations are much moredisorienting than it would seem.

“It throws your whole equilibrium off. There are differentcompartments in passenger trains,” he said. “You could easily misssomeone because an open door was covering another door.”

Brookhaven Fire Chief Bob Watts said the train training isoptional because the course is free, although the city supports theeffort by covering transportation and board expenses.

“Most of the guys who have gone have told me they’d have beenlost if we had an emergency with the trains before this,” he said.”Now they say they could help not only with the people, but withthe other things associated with this kind of emergency.”

The level two course at the end of March will show firefightershow to safely set up a helicopter landing zone as well as to track,pack and transfer victims, and basic land navigation.

“The problem you have with a train wreck is that people get outof the train and go wherever,” said Clark. “They go away from thetrain. More often than not there are no major roads, so to bringthem all in is quite an effort.”

Clark also said a helicopter would be brought in from UniversityMedical Center in Jackson for one of the real-life exercises, aswell as using some live victims rather than dummies.