MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Imagine this. Several rail cars loaded with dangerous chemicals derail near your neighborhood. Will first responders be able to work quickly and effectively to help keep you and your family from harm? The answer is yes, thanks to special training they received Tuesday.
It’s a common sight on the Coast. Hundreds of rail cars moving up and down the tracks every day. What’s inside some of them is scary, but learning about the potential danger is critical. Jim Rist is a program specialist.
“We know that the local rail handles over 39 different types of chemical and hazardous materials. We’re going to focus on five or six,” he said.
He added that focus has one goal.
“We’re hoping to make them more aware of what they can and cannot do based on their abilities, the size and the scale of a rail incident,” he explained.
A rail incident is very rare, but it can happen, according to training instructor David Saitta.
“If it does occur, it has major consequences for the communities. So, it’s important for our responders to understand how to manage these types of events.”
Mississippi Export Railroad was involved in today’s training. Matt Fryfogle works for the company.
“It’s important for us to partner with our local fire chiefs and emergency responders in case there is an emergency, that we’re all equipped and trained to handle it and keep everybody safe,” he said.
Those attending today’s special training session were first responders, police, fire and ambulance personnel. However, school resource officers were also in attendance, and there was a reason they were there as well. Mike Krebs is one of them.
"A lot of our schools are within a quarter to an eighth of a mile of the railroad system that runs through Ocean Springs. And even some of those schools are right on top of the railroad,” Krebs explained.
Dealing with any derailment and spill depends on speed. That’s the word from Saitta. .
“We can have upwards of 4 to 5 hundred responders within 24 hours, and that may include private industry from the rail as well, and they all have their roles. So, we have to begin managing this early within the first 60 minutes.”
And those minutes that could save lives.
Tuesday’s training session was funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. It was sponsored by the DC International Association of Fire Chiefs.