First responders and the risks of railroads

By Capt. Dave Fornell

It seems like every week we read about an emergency responder being hit by a vehicle while working an incident scene on a highway. And, with each incident, we seek to ratchet up responders’ awareness of operating in dangerous environments; making sure that apparatus is positioned to block the areas of roadways where we are working and mandating that each responder is wearing high visibility clothing and keeping an eye on oncoming traffic.

While traffic incidents, because we respond to them quite often, are uppermost in our safety consciousness, we need to remember that there are other transportation hazards out there that we need to be aware of as well.

Did you know that, according to Operation Lifesaver, approximately every three hours, someone is struck by a train in this country? And, that a motorist is 40 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a collision with another motor vehicle.

Railroading can be a violent business. Freight cars coupling sound like minor explosions, accelerating diesel engines reverberate like distant thunder, and when trains tangle with a vehicle or human being, well, they always win.

Railroaders live by safety rules-if they violate them, they get fired–if they are lucky. If not, they can be seriously injured or die.

If you have rail lines running through your response district, it might be time to review some tips on how to keep your personnel from becoming a statistic.

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