BELLEVUE, Ohio (WKBN) — In the aftermath of the East Palestine train derailment, firefighters have realized they need more training — and Norfolk Southern is helping provide it.
On Tuesday, the company held a training session at its large railroad yard in Bellevue, a two-hour drive west of Youngstown.
Among the 50 firefighters at the training were three from East Palestine — including deputy fire Chief Rick Gorby. Chief Keith Drabik was there earlier in the day.
However, according to the first responders who were at the scene the day of the East Palestine derailment, there’s some debate on how effective this training really was.
“It’s a whole different situation on Feb. 3. We wouldn’t have been to do what we learned today anyhow,” Gorby said.
What Norfolk Southern provided was what’s called the “safety train” — among which included an engine, two boxcars and two tankers. One of the boxcars doubled as a classroom. The firefighters were taught how to deal with each piece in the event of an accident or fire.
Instructor lecture: “When we want to brake just the locomotives, we use the dynamic brake system, which will produce a lot of excess energy. It’s going to get fed to the grids, and blown out as excess heat coming out. That’s the two main potential spots for electrical fires on a locomotive.”
An important part of the training dealt with the railroad car. There are protective housings that are found on top of a typical tanker car. The concern lies not only with the housing, but also with what’s inside them. This includes the various valves that control and monitor what’s happening inside
“I didn’t know the differences between certain valves. Now, I think I have a decent education on it. I just hope we never have to do it again,” Gorby said.
“It starts off today in the classroom, where we give just some general ‘Railroad 101,'” said Norfolk Southern spokesman Connor Spielmaker.
Spielmaker says the “safety train” will stay in Bellevue for a couple weeks, with 350 firefighters having signed up to take part.
“We’re working with everyone involved — all the local community, the governor’s office — to identify where it makes the most sense,” Spielmaker said. “Then, obviously, we’ll figure it out what we want to put there.”
“Anybody that has a railroad running through their community, they need to take the class,” Gorby said.
Eventually, a permanent training center will be built somewhere near East Palestine.