CSX holds emergency response training in Westover

WESTOVER – First responders in Shelby County will be better equipped to handle incidents involving railroads after training held in Westover on Feb. 14-15.

CSX held the training at the ServPro Training Center.

“We work with local agencies to prepare them if they have to respond to a railroad incident,” CSX Community Affairs and Safety Manager Sheriee Bowman said.

Bowman, whose region includes Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Caroline, said the company tries to provide opportunities for training annually.

Westover officials were particularly helpful in facilitating the training, Bowman said.

“We appreciate their partnership and their desire to offer these resources,” she said.

Susan Lane, chairwoman for the Westover Town Council’s Public Safety and Business Development Committee, said Westover officials contacted CSX in October 2017 with concerns about a crossing in town, and conversations with the company grew into CSX offering the training in Westover.

“It’s crucial training,” Lane said.

Separate training sessions were held for law enforcement and firefighters, with all sessions covering identifying railroad equipment and how to contact railroad employees in the event of an emergency.

“Oftentimes we hear that they wish they would have been through the training before (an incident),” Bowman said.

Harpersville Police Chief Jimmy Macon said this was the case for his department, after they responded in December 2017 to a person being struck by a train.

“We didn’t have this information when we responded,” Macon said, adding that he was concerned the night of the incident whether incoming trains had been halted. “It could be catastrophic.”

Macon said he was glad to see that CSX offers a mobile phone application that provides useful information.

Law enforcement training topics ranged from trespassing, theft and vandalism to derailment, while the firefighter and emergency medical services training focused on hazardous materials.

The training also included a device called a “dome trailer” that helps participants visualize how materials can be stored on a railroad tank car.

Hamburger Heaven owner Pete Flach donated breakfast for attendees the morning of Feb. 15, Lane said.

Bowman said she worked with Shelby County Emergency Management Agency Director Hub Harvey to notify local agencies of the opportunity to receive free training.

Harvey said he invited every police department, fire department and dispatch agency in the county, and even spread the word to neighboring counties.

The training is useful for EMA employees because of their role in responding to emergencies, Harvey said.

“We don’t bring a lot of equipment to accidents; we bring relationships,” he said. “We’re excited to have the training and have it in Shelby County.”