Emergency Responders Learn Railroad Safety

Hundreds of railroad cars roll safely along the coast every day.

Many of the tanker cars are carrying hazardous materials.

A derailment could prove disastrous. And that's why emergency responders are preparing themselves to deal with the possibility of such an accident.

The recent terrorist attack has also heightened awareness about keeping the railroad running safely.

"The air brake system is one of the most important things on a freight care and locomotive. It stops you, plain and simple," a safety instructor told the group.

Dozens of law enforcers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians are getting a close up look at the inner workings of rail cars.

"I know that by looking at that, that the safety relief valve is set at 75 pounds. The pressure in that car will not exceed that," said a trainer as he explained pressure valves.

This seminar is designed to teach so-called "first responders" about what to do in the event of an accident like a train derailment. But the terrorist attack on September 11th cast a whole new light on safety procedures and precautions. Such training can now be considered "counter terrorism".

Tom Bartlett helped organize the safety seminar.

"Any training that's being done with emergency responders to better respond to what has in the past been natural occurring or accidental occurring incidents, by default now becomes counter terrorism."

Participants learn to identify safety equipment and read numbers that describe the kind of chemical that's inside a tanker car.

Should an accident occur, those first on the scene need to make quick decisions.

"One of the most important things a first responder can do is indicate to the dispatchers and the controlling agencies what tank cars are involved. The numbers on the side will give them an indicator what kind of response is needed and what kind of evacuation or stabilization has to go on to protect life and safety," said Ocean Springs fire chief, Mark Hare.

Experts say better trained responders who know how to react, will save valuable time and possibly lives in the event of an accident.