Railroad responses: Be prepared

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Adam K. Thiel Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Railroad responses: Be prepared

Incident in New Jersey demonstrates the degree of damage even a relatively minor railroad incident can cause

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: With 34 people injured when a commuter train from New York crashed into the bumpers at the end of the tracks Sunday, our Editorial Advisor Chief Adam K. Thiel takes a look at the lessons we all can learn below.

Waiting in line at the Washington, DC, Union Station for National Train Day last Saturday wasn't the first time I thought about the need for firefighters and other emergency responders to become more familiar with railroads and the rolling stock traveling along them.

While rail transport for passengers and freight is generally safe and reliable, this story demonstrates the degree of damage even a relatively minor railroad incident can cause.

If your jurisdiction hosts a railroad, whether heavy or light rail, it's vital to become familiar with the vehicles (rail and road), equipment, and procedures used by the rail operator.

Even more important, be sure you know how to immediately notify the railroad's dispatcher if you're working anywhere near the right-of-way.

Most railroads have consolidated their dispatch centers in remote sites, so it's critical to be able to clearly describe your exact location.

The best way to become familiar with a railroad is to contact the trainmaster responsible for your local area; obviously, you should never work on or around a railroad without permission and expert guidance.

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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