Safety first was message during TRANSCAER training sessionMonday evening, March 21, the St. Croix County Local Emergency Planning Committee (SCCLEPC) held a training session in New Richmond for first responders and elected officials.
By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer
Monday evening, March 21, the St. Croix County Local Emergency Planning Committee (SCCLEPC) held a training session in New Richmond for first responders and elected officials. The three-plus hour session drew over 60 participants from throughout the county including New Richmond, Hudson, North Hudson, Star Prairie, Hammond, Roberts, Baldwin, Warren, Deer Park, the Town of Hudson, Woodville and the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department.
The training, which is part of a national initiative Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TRANSCAER), is a precursor to the tabletop exercise to be held in April. Representatives from both Canadian National and Union Pacific railways provided general customer safety practices as part of their Responsible Care model so the participants would be better prepared for the exercises coming up in April and August.
St. Croix County has approximately 66 miles of railroad track, half owned by Union Pacific and the other half owned by CN. While the lines are not parallel they essentially both cross the county from east to west. The railroads both utilize each other’s track.
David Slauson from Canadian National (CN) and Michael Koscinski from Union Pacific (UP) both presented information regarding both basic railroad operations, nomenclature and equipment as well as sharing specific examples of situations in which local first responders would be on the scene. Those situations include derailments, train versus vehicle, train to train collisions, chemicals leaking from a car, diesel fuel leaking from the locomotive, suspicious device near or on the track or a fire involving either the locomotive or car.
“Safety is always important,” said Slauson. “Anytime is train time.”
With the upgrades in track conditions, the lumbering freight trains are a thing of the past. Today both CN and UP trains travel at 50 mph. At that speed a loaded freight train needs a mile or more to come to a complete stop. With 100 cars the train can weigh 1 million tons.
“Expect a train or rail equipment to move on any track from either direction at anytime,” said Slauson. “Don’t assume because you can’t see it or hear it that a train isn’t coming.”
Other tips for first responders included never step on the rail, step over it; know how to identify where you are when you call the dispatcher and how to identify specific cars and their cargos.
Much of the training included a discussion of hazardous materials.
As part of the grant from Wisconsin Emergency Management, the SCCLEPC is required to hold a tabletop exercise annually. In conjunction with an annual tabletop, a functional or full scale exercise involving a hazardous materials scenario is held every four years. This year is the fourth year of the cycle. A tabletop and functional will be held in New Richmond involving the Canadian National Railway in train derailment scenario.
Under the general direction of the State of Wisconsin Military Affairs, Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) and under the direct supervision of LEPC Chair Roger Larson, County Emergency Management Coordinator Kristen Sailer, County Board Chair Daryl Standafer, county LEPC members develop and implement the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) planning program at the county level.
They provide technical assistance in developing hazardous materials emergency response plans required under EPCRA and Wisconsin Statute 323.60 and assist in coordinating and conducting simulated hazardous materials incident exercises of plans required by EPCRA and Wisconsin Statute 323.60.