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Blair County Train Safety Training

Members from the City of Altoona Fire Department and local emergency management agencies went aboard Norfolk Southern’s safety train in Altoona on Tuesday. They say that because of the mainline railroad that runs through Altoona and Blair County, this type of training is very important to them.

“There’s a lot of train traffic that comes through here, so it’s really important for us that we’re building those relationships with first responders and that the first responders here, for one thing, are familiar with our equipment and get the chance to train as they would for a kind of house fire or vehicle incident,

Representatives from Norfolk Southern say they offer their operation awareness and response training program completely free of charge for first responders. They say they give the first responders a mock scenario of a railroad incident, and then they have the opportunity to assess and address it.

“They don’t always have the opportunity to train on real rail equipment so it’s really important for us to know that we’re giving them the opportunity to get on the equipment, get familiar, ask questions,”

One point of emphasis was identifying what the affected train is carrying, and if that is a potential hazard. The city of Altoona’s deputy fire chief Michael Hawksworth says that because of the mainline, there are all types of cargo constantly coming through the area.

“So you got to realize what the hazard is, if it’s new cars or clothing or something like that, not a big hazard, but some of the hazardous materials that are coming through could cause an extreme hazard to us,”

He says there is an app that Norfolk Southern offers that allows them to identify the cars that are in the train and what they are carrying.

Logan Township’s emergency management coordinator Jeff Blake says that there have been 12 minor train derailments in the area over the last decade. He says it’s important for all the agencies to come together and identify what their potential roles would be if an incident were to occur.

“I don’t think you can ever be prepared enough, I think as technology evolves, as systems evolve, as things change it’s very, very important for any emergency responder to maintain a current level of training as much as they possibly can,”

Norfolk Southern representatives say that training will continue in Altoona until Thursday.

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