HazMat exercise a success

Multiple law enforcement agencies from surrounding communities recently took part in a three-day exercise at the Belt, which included rescuing a dummy from an accidental chemical release scenario. 

Along with the Belt’s entire safety committee, Transportation Security Administration representatives also observed the event and emphasized the importance of learning and sharing information that can help protect HazMat cars. 

Switchman Tom Swade began one scenario by calling in a mock chlorine release to the yardmaster on duty, setting off a chain of responsibility. First responders then practiced capping a rail car and patching a leak with a special magnetic device.

Because people need to evacuate in the opposite direction a chemical is blowing, wind was one of the first factors communicated during the drill. As a result of the exercise, Chief Gerald Conoboy said BRC may install more windsocks and replace some existing ones. 

Citing the importance of realistic scenarios, Manager of Operational Safety and Compliance Mike Holowienka said a post-event debriefing will help the Belt revise and refine its emergency response. He also said that the railway will have similar drills on a more frequent basis, and he is establishing an internal training curriculum related to emergency response. 

“We want to keep everyone safe,” he said.

Conoboy believes the greatest value was the chance to interact with local first responders, noting, “We don’t want people coming out here for the first time in an actual emergency.”

Connor Schaeffer, who works for Response Management Service, also attended. He is contracted to respond to leaking cars and praised the Belt for taking potential HazMat issues seriously.

First responders cap a tank car.