Sebring Fire Dept. undergo derailment disaster training
It was a massive effort by dozens of fire departments on the night of East Palestine's train derailment. The aftermath was an unprecedented event that many crews had never seen before.
So in that time, what have first responders learned about dealing with these types of emergencies? Sebring is the latest community to improve training for its department.
Just minutes before several Norfolk Southern train cars derailed in East Palestine last February 3, they traveled through towns like Sebring.
"I just want all my fire crews and surrounding departments to be safe going into this," explained Sebring Fire Chief Mike Springer.
We've previously reported volunteer fire departments in the State of Ohio aren't required to be trained on rail accidents. But the staff at Sebring Fire Department are taking matters into their own hands with tracks crossing straight through the village.
"I work right next to the railroad tracks and there's a train that comes every about 7 minutes that comes through," Springer added. "So they're really busy. Knock on wood, we've been fortunate and not had an issue with the trains but we always need to be prepared."
The department requested derailment disaster training from Norfolk Southern. Manager of Hazmat Materials Jon Rettig conducted the free training for Sebring and surrounding communities, something the rail company has offered for years.
"I don't want to see anybody hurt for lack of knowledge of what was on the train," Springer added.
Springer told 21 News he wishes communication was a bit stronger the night of the derailment between fire departments.
"That needs a lot of improvements," Springer added. "I know they're working on it but it hasn't been completed yet. That was my big takeaway, communication from one department to the other."
On top of training, Springer said they rely on the Mahoning County Hazmat for any special equipment required to handle a chemical fire. "Any kind of hazardous material situation, you need more than the PPE we would carry or have on hand," Springer explained. "So Mahoning County Hazmat team has all that. So, we are hazmat aware but we are not a hazmat team."
He told 21 News the training is crucial to ensure his staff has the knowledge moving forward.
Norfolk Southern's Jon Rettig said any fire department interested in the training should contact the rail company.