SYRACUSE — A train derails. The train is a freight train, carrying different products on different cars. It is unclear what cars have derailed.
Were they all box cars? Were there tank cars? Did the locomotive derail as well? Numerous other questions arise, including what is in the cars that derailed.
Unlike battling a house fire, where firefighters quickly pull the hoses from the trucks and begin pouring water on the blaze, a train derailment calls for gathering of information before any action is taken.
Turkey Creek Fire Territory hosted a rail car incident response for crude, ethanol and other flammable liquids Saturday, March 10. The eight-hour training was conducted by Tom Rinebolt, trainer with the All Hazards Training Center at the University of Findlay, Ohio. Approximately 37 persons attended the training, including representatives from Turkey Creek Fire Territory, North Webster, Silver Lake, Benton, New Paris and Warsaw-Wayne fire departments.
For many of these firefighters it was continuing education and a refresher course. But there were others attending as well from Lilly Center for Lake and Streams, city of Warsaw Storm Water, Wawasee Property Owners Association and private citizens, who learned a wealth of information and received a better understanding of rail car incidents, along with the makeup of trains and the cars they haul.
The day was broken down into seven sections: introduction and course overview, introduction to rail car emergency response, train composition and rail car design, hazardous materials recognition and identification, characteristics of chemicals and toxicology, rail tank care response and of course some testing.
The training touched on the strategy of decide, estimate, choose, identify, do and evaluate or the D.E.C.I.D.E process for making emergency response decisions. Additionally an overview of the rail/freight industry was provided, including the major rail lines in the United States and Indiana along with the commodities shipped by rail. A binder with contacts and information was given to each participant along with DOT Chart 16 for hazardous materials markings, labeling and placarding guide.
For many, the interesting part of the training came with the train composition and rail car design — including how to tell the difference between a general service tank car and pressure tank cars, fittings and where to find specification markings. Each person learned about the various rail car designs and aspects of the construction, products transported, fittings and accessories, train composition and interpreting rail car identification markings and configurations for general service cars, pressure cars and locomotives. Even the language used in the rail car business was presented.
The real learning came with the hazardous materials recognition and identification. Understanding of the U.S. Department of Transportation marking, labeling and placarding system was learned, along with the UN Hazard classification system, and identification of critical information regarding hazardous materials by using the Emergency Response Guidebook. Participants also were taught how to read a trains consist or shipping papers. This consist provides necessary information including a hazardous material key, the position of cars in the trail, types, contents, destination, DOT hazard class, shipping name, DOT ID number and packing group.
The main point of the training was training firefighters how rail car incidents should be approached — finding out the hazards to human life first and foremost, before taking further steps. There was group participation in recognizing hazards at scenes utilizing photographs from prior rail car incidents, including the potential of a boiling, liquid, expanding, vapor explosion and a heat induced tear.