COLLEGE STATION – TEEX delivered a 40-hour Passenger Rail Rescue course last month in cooperation with Amtrak. The course was designed and developed in cooperation with Amtrak to provide participants with the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform search and rescue operations at a passenger train or commuter train disaster.
Conducted by TEEX Disaster Preparedness and Response (DPR), the course drew participants from Boston, New York City and Cumberland, Maine, to Disaster City? and Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station. The 13 participants had an opportunity to learn multiple rescue techniques that are unique to passenger rail disasters and conduct significant hands-on skill scenarios in the Transportation Disaster Training Area (TDTA).
One of the major props in the TDTA is a seven-car Amtrak passenger car derailment, offering participants a variety of difficult rescue scenarios and situations. The Amtrak cars were donated to TEEX and are used in many TEEX search and rescue training programs. In addition to the hands-on scenarios, participants discussed case studies of three previous passenger rail incidents to gain a better understanding of the challenges that responders faced.
The course was taught by DPR Training Director Brian Freeman, Training Manager Brian Smith and TEEX Adjunct Ken Dean, along with instructors Charlie Cox and Michael Stammel from Amtrak Emergency Response. Freeman brought a unique perspective to the course, having responded to multiple passenger rail incidents during his 30-year career with the London Fire Brigade, including the multiple bombings of the London Underground on July 7, 2005.
“I was on duty on July 7, and I can tell you categorically that our team’s response went very well because of the excellent training that I had received from TEEX in 2004,” Freeman said. “It’s one of the reasons I came to work for TEEX after my retirement from the Brigade.”
As a part of the course of instruction, Freeman provided detailed presentations about the Paddington Rail Disaster and the London Underground bombings. “The students were very motivated during this class to learn as much as possible, despite the cold temperatures,” he commented. “They could immediately see the value of this type of training and how it will be used back in New York City, Boston, and Cumberland. There is a lot of professional satisfaction to be developing these types of advanced courses for responders across the nation and the world.”
Smith led the case study discussions by using his experiences taking graduate courses at the Texas A&M University Bush School of Government. “I’ve been taking graduate homeland security courses at the Bush School with the help of the TEEX Employee Education Program,” Smith said. “I was able to apply the same case study teaching techniques I’ve learned from the Bush School into our TEEX course.”
The course concluded with a realistic five-hour night exercise involving all seven passenger cars and large numbers of volunteer “victims” from the local community.
Due to the overwhelming positive feedback from the students and new customer inquiries, the Passenger Rail Rescue course will be offered twice in 2012: April 2-6 and September 10-14.