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Central Ohio first responders train for emergencies on railroads

COLUMBUS (WCMH) -- Trains carrying hazardous material travel through central Ohio regularly, and if something goes wrong, first responders are the ones who handle the situation.

On Wednesday, first responders went through training to handle emergencies on the railroad using the Safety Train, a mobile learning facility that was stationed for the day at the CSX Parsons Yard in south Columbus.

"Our number one goal is to make sure that first responders stay safe, no matter what," said Laura Phelps, media relations manager at CSX.

Phelps noted that problems on the railroad are rare, making training for first responders even more critical.

"Because we don’t do this day-to-day," Chris Courtney, a firefighter and paramedic for the Worthington Fire Department, said. "So when something like this happens, it’s what we call a high-risk event, but [...] it’s a low-frequency event.”

Courtney said training was partly a refresher for him and his colleagues, but also a chance to learn about improvements to train design or new safety features.

“Paramount for us is always our safety," Courtney said. "When we come, we want to make sure everybody goes home."

Joseph Taylor, senior manager of hazardous materials at CSX, ran the training Wednesday and noted that not all trains carry hazardous materials. First responders at the training learned to identify what a car might be carrying without getting too close to a potential hazard, "to identify a problem from when they are standing in a safe zone and looking at it, as opposed to getting up next to it to identify a specific problem," Taylor said.

In addition to recognizing physical signs, Taylor said first responders must also communicate information to the right people during an emergency incident.

“We have to know what’s going on when we get there and that we don’t cause a panic by evacuating everybody and then not having to," Chris Courtney said.

CSX is a common carrier, which means by law, its trains are required to carry any good or material given to them, as long as it's traveling in a safe container.

Taylor said that if people in a community think they see a problem or hazard with a train car or the railroad, they should call 911. He said they can also call CSX at 1-800-232-0144 with concerns.


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