By BRIAN WALKER
Hagadone News Network
Local responders recently learned just how tight rescues can be inside a locomotive during the first hands-on training of its type in this area at BNSF Railway’s refueling depot on the Rathdrum Prairie.
"We are a business, but we would not be in business if we weren’t safe," said Courtney Wallace, BNSF spokeswoman. "It’s important to have these conversations with the local responders. This is so important not only for the education, but building relationships."
Either way responders rescued "patients" from inside a locomotive — through a side window and down a ladder on a backboard or out the front door and down the engine’s stairs — they learned just how difficult it is to work within the tight confines of the locomotive.
"With locomotives being made of structural steel that’s designed for accidents, this isn’t something that your traditional tools like the Jaws of Life will allow you to get into," Justin Piper, BNSF’s director of hazardous materials, told about 30 responders. "If you can’t get a person out (the door), the next easiest place is through a window."
Northern Lakes, which covers Rathdrum, Hayden and Hayden Lake; Timberlake, which covers Athol and Bayview; Hauser Lake Fire; BNSF; and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality were among the agencies that participated in the training.
"As we grow as a community, these scenarios could come up more often, so it’s important to partner with railroad companies such as BNSF," said Mike Mather, Northern Lakes division chief.
Responders also learned about hazards on a train, including high-voltage components, up to 5,500 gallons of diesel, compressed air and lead acid batteries.
"There are things you need to understand before you approach the equipment," Piper said.
A dry chemical extinguisher, not water, should be used on train fires, Piper said.
Responders were also told to resist the urge to be on the roof of an engine and to push buttons during a mission.
Locomotive fires can start with air filters, electrical wiring, turbo chargers, fuel spills, crank case explosions and motors.
Responders were familiarized with fluid colors on the train that can help them while responding, including green being cooling water; red, diesel fuel; black, lube oil; clear, battery acid; and blue, toilet tank fluid.
Railroad crossings have a location number and an 800 number for the public to call in case of emergencies so responders can arrive on scene as fast as possible.
"We could be responding to a train out in the middle of nowhere, so it’s important to know how to size things up," Mather said.