BCFD Division Chief of Training & Special Operations Dwayne Jamison said the accident in 2010 was the catalyst for the department sending two hazardous materials team members to a training seminar in Colorado.
After a successful training exercise involving CSX, BCFD and other Bartow County first responder agencies, the railroad company extended an invitation to two BCFD HAZMAT team members for a weeklong training at the Security & Emergency Response Training Center in Pueblo, Colo. The department sent HAZMAT team leader Capt. Marcus Warren and Capt. Billy Ward.
“It is very critical for the team to be equipped with the skills learned at this class because of the volume of hazardous materials transported by rail through our county every day,” Jamison said. “The potential for a HAZMAT incident on the railroad is certainly there. CSX is a very safety conscious organization and has many safeguards in place to prevent these type accidents, but there is always that possibility.”
For Ward, communicating with CSX personnel on approaching such incidents brings huge benefits to both organizations.
“… When we get into [a HAZMAT situation] — we hope we never do — but with all the miles of CSX railroad that runs through our county it’s a good possibility that we may have to use it someday,” he said. “… They had other people in there, we would be public sector and then they would be private sectors and then there’d be CSX. CSX more or less would hire these private companies to come in and assist them, us in a cleanup.
“One of the big benefits would be we know how they work; we shared with them how we work as far as we respond with our HAZMAT team. Automatically, we know we are going on to their property because they own the railroad, but then if something happens, our main concern is the safety of the public. It’s the unified command part of it — how they are going to work with us, we are going to work with them and we are all going to work with the private sector.”
Closing the week with a simulated 43-car train derailment riddled with leak, Ward said he and Warren will bring the skills learned back to the county’s HAZMAT professionals.
“What we plan on doing is, … we are both on the HAZMAT team and we are both instructors, so a lot of the stuff we will bring back and teach in our HAZMAT classes each month. We will share with our whole team what we learned out there,” he said.
Jamison said the department will update protocols and will send additional members to the training.
“The team is required to hold two eight-hour drills per year, and we will begin planning our fall drill soon. I also plan on sending more team members to specialty HAZMAT training classes that are funded through the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. These classes will cover Weapons of Mass Destruction training,” he said. “We will be looking to partner with local industry for chemical specific training at their facilities as well.”
With the team activated about once every two months, Jamison said the potential is high for HAZMAT situations within the county.
“The department responds to many HAZMAT calls each year. Most of them are hydrocarbon — fuel — spills. The actual team is activated approximately six times per year at various levels to respond to everything from an unknown substance leaking or spilled, to the explosion at Plant Bowen,” he said. “With the number of chemical manufacturing plants, railways and major highways in Bartow County, the potential for a huge hazardous materials incident is very high.”