Local first responders receive rail safety training

Rail safety training for local first responders
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 8:36 PM EDT
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BELLEVUE, Ohio (WTVG) - The safety of Ohio’s rail tracks has become a leading discussion in recent months.

The ongoing discussions have led to area first responders receiving additional first-hand experience in train safety Tuesday.

The training aims to help mitigate potential disasters should there ever be an incident similar to East Palestine.

For some first responders in attendance, the training was their first time encountering a train, in which they learned how they operate and what to do in case of a disaster.

“The biggest thing we would do is evacuate. We always look to the safety of the community first. We can replace this equipment. We can’t replace people,” said Chief Kevin Neimeyer of the Hamler Volunteer Fire Department.

Chief Niemeyer knows getting access to the trains in a rural area can be tough. Planning for that and their size now can go a long way.

“The biggest thing is the awareness of how big the trains are and how long it takes to stop. The lengths of the trains are getting bigger and bigger every day,” said Chief Neimeyer.

The city of Toledo also sent its Environmental Service Department to the training. Department officials told 13abc that it’s uncommon to know what exact chemicals are traveling on a train right away, and it may be even more difficult to decipher during a disaster.

“It is possible to find out as we learned today, but generally, we don’t know off the top of our heads. We’d have to dig a little deeper to find information, but that information is available to us,” said Kyle Timbrook.

Norfolk Southern has offered this mobile training before. However, the East Palestine derailment has raised awareness and a desire to be educated on all aspects, from the engine to a tank car on display.

“Largely, the program has existed for a number of years and provided some really good results. So, there are not a lot of changes we need to make, but obviously, I know there’s probably some things with the railroad. In general, we’ll continue to work with the NTSB and the FRA to identify what we can do to become an even safer railroad,” said Connor Spielmaker of Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk Southern said it would offer training to fire departments in our area if they request it.

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