Norfolk Southern offers safety training for rescuers after train derailment in East Palestine

First responders from across the state have begun receiving special training on how to respond to train derailments. Calls for Norfolk Southern to offer this training came after the crash in East Palestine last month.

“The problem is that if you start blowing into a pile of water because of a fire, it can leak under the locomotive, and what, are you going to start a fire? 5000 gallon fuel tank. Bad view,” the coach said, pointing at a Norfolk Southern safety train on a windy spring day.

An instructor speaks to a crowd of lifeguards in front of a Norfolk Southern safety train.

Abigail Bottar


Ideastream Public Media

First responders learned about the various parts of the train and how to act in the event of an accident at a training event in South Norfolk on March 21, 2023.

Firefighters train on a traveling safety train on the Norfolk Southern Railroad at Bellevue in North Central Ohio.

“We have a cistern. We have a platform, a locomotive, and also another class here, so everything you see behind me is real, obviously, you can see it,” said Norfolk Southern Senior Communications Manager Connor Spielmaker. . “But it travels through our network. It moves like a real train.”

The training helps first responders understand how to act in the event of a train derailment in their community.

“These firefighters usually don’t have a backyard train they can train on,” Speelmaker said. “That’s why it’s safety training on the safety train, so by bringing it over the net, it gives that hands-on experience, it gives them the ability to get closer — I mean, a lot of people don’t get that close to the train just in general. And so if you’ve never been this close, you don’t know what to expect. This is what we want to achieve through training.”

Norfolk South Safety Train

Abigail Bottar


Ideastream Public Media

First responders train on a Norfolk Southern safety train on March 21, 2023.

Norfolk Southern plans to train about 350 rescuers over the next two weeks, Spielmaker said. Then the safety train moved off.

“It actually travels around our network throughout the year,” Speelmaker said. “We have 12 stops this year, some of them in Ohio, providing hands-on training for first responders in the communities where we operate.”

Norfolk Southern has said it intends to establish a permanent educational facility in Ohio.

“Rail accidents are so rare, but we want to make sure we have something to offer first responders,” Speelmaker said. answer one.

Firefighters inspect a Norfolk Southern safety train.

Abigail Bottar


Ideastream Public Media

Firefighters inspect a Norfolk Southern safety train in training on March 21, 2023.

The firefighters at the training event were grateful for the opportunity to gain hands-on experience.

“We have quite a few trains passing through our city, about 70 a day, so we are always trying to increase our knowledge of what is happening and everything,” said Kevin Niemeyer, a firefighter with the Hamler Volunteer Fire Department.

Many said they had previously taken train safety courses.

“It definitely adds to the situation and makes us better prepared,” said Barry Sauber, a firefighter with the Findley Fire Department.

In addition to the safety train, Norfolk Southern offers other ways to support fire departments.

“We’re working with first responders over the phone to help them understand what kind of things might happen in their community,” Speelmaker said, “so they can develop an action plan that makes sense, works, and is relevant if problems ever arise. “. was supposed to be an incident.”

Norfolk Southern is expanding its safety train program and will continue to make adjustments as more information becomes available about the East Palestine train derailment, Spielmaker said.

“We continue to work with the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] and FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] to determine what we can do to make the railroad even safer,” Speelmaker said.

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