Fire Train Wreck
by: Capella Tucker, October 8, 2007 5:10:00 am
First responders always have to be prepared for the unkown in emergency situations. And that's no different when it comes to train derailments. Houston Fire Department Hazardous Material Team Captain Michael Byrd.
"We have large exchange yards throughout the area that have thousands of cars in those areas and each time they're hooking up the potential is there. Recently, over the last few months we've had probably two or three derailments where none of them had a bad problem with the chemicals and everything like that. Fortunately the problem was contained. The rail industry has done a real good job of staying on top of technology and safety precautions."
HFD is expanding its training facilities to set up the derailment scenario for training purposes. The haz-mat team will train to read the information on the side of rail cars so they can respond appropriately according to the contents of the car. HFD Captain Kevin Okonski says resonders need to be able to react appropriately and sometime water and or foam is not the answer depending on the chemicals involved.
"We could actually come in and not only hurt ourselves but we could hurt our brother or sister firefighter or even the community from what actions we do inappropriately. What this training will do is just become more familiar and more confident in our job in these certain situations."
Captain Byrd says the training will go beyond visual inpections of trains in emergency situations.
"They can be anything from chlorine cars to what we call general service cars, high pressure cars. And what those will be doing, we will be hoping to plumb in some vapor lines and even some potential for some fire will be showing for firefighter to come in and block those in and shut down those lines."
Byrd says one unique aspect to this derailment scenario is fire fighters will be able to train on a locomotive.
"And the potential there on the locomotives the high voltage and stuff inside there the shutting off of fuel valves shutting the engine down itself."
When it's all said and done, hope to have five to six cars as part of the derailment. Much of the equipment is being donated by rail companies. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.