Many trains travel the rails through Prince George’s County each day. This includes Amtrak along the northeast corridor, MARC trains taking commuters between Washington, DC and Baltimore, as well as freight trains. Unlike freight trains, passenger trains pose some significant challenges to fire and emergency medical personnel. These challenges include the potential for mass casualties and/or fatalities, as well as, rescues and extrication. Over the past several months Amtrak’s Office of Emergency Preparedness conducted “Passenger Train Emergency Response Training” classes throughout the County to better prepare fire and emergency medical personnel to deal with these challenges and operate safely along the rails. This training was conducted by Jeffrey Wiegel and Doug Osterhouse (PGFD retired) from Amtrak.
On Tuesday, February 23, 2010, the Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire Department hosted one of those classes. The class was well attended by Company 5 members and included personnel from neighboring fire stations. Personnel attended a follow-up session on Saturday, April 3, 2010, at the Ivy City Rail Yard in Washington, DC so they could see first- hand how to remove windows to gain access to or evacuate passenger cars, open doors from the outside, apply the hand brakes on the rail cars and walk through an Acela train.
While we hope we never need to use this training, we are better prepared to deal with a rail emergency.