First responder crews complete hard hitting training

Photo: Taking a proactive approach, first responders from the Irving Police and Fire Departments worked with members of TRE and DART during a training exercise involving survivors of a “collision” between a train and vehicle. /Photo by Sarah Bays

Passengers exited the TRE early Sunday morning, Nov. 1, just past the intersection of Rock Island and Rogers roads. A white van sat parked across the train tracks, the driver was unhurt, the passengers were not so fortunate.

While some Irving first responders carried passengers from the middle and back seats of the van, others collected backboards and first aid equipment from their trucks. Two passengers, both women, were lowered onto yellow boards, strapped and readied to be loaded into ambulances.

Thankfully, this entire scenario was just pretend.

“The training scenario will be addressing the response to a passenger rail accident at the rail crossing located at Rock Island Road and Rogers Road,” said Jason Carriere of the Irving Police Department. “In Irving, we conduct training exercises multiple times a year, addressing various scenarios to test response capabilities to events that can impact operations in the city.”

In the event that a passenger car and a train ever collide in Irving, police would be on hand to manage scene security and support the city’s fire department, which does most of the rescue work.

The team seemed to have reenacted a successful operation.

“So far so good, in terms of the overall setup and cooperation with the different agencies,” said police spokesman James McClellan.

Recently, a man jumped from the MacArthur overpass at Irving Boulevard and onto a train in an apparent suicide attempt. The situation created a scenario between train passengers and first responders at this training reenactment.

“We’ve had a few pedestrian train accidents,” McClellan said.

This exercise included DART, TRE, the Irving Police Department and the Irving Fire Department. A TRE train passed the intersection and stopped about 100 feet ahead of the crash site. The van was placed onto the tracks as though it had been there when the train crossed. There was no actual crash simulated this time.

Passengers from the train and car were treated after being separated into groups: green for those who could walk and did not appear to have serious injuries; yellow for those who perhaps needed a bit more care; and red for those who were in dire straits.

“This is something that we have the potential of dealing with really at any time,” Irving Assistant Fire Chief Rusty Wilson said. “Overall, we hit our benchmarks really well. We just like to do this every once in a while so that our members and our departments are reminded of each one of these steps in these critical areas that have to be covered in an incident like this before the time that the chaos hits.”

Wilson said every crash scene is different. The departments use a command structure that can be built upon and enlarged should the incident require more people on the scene.

“Thank God it doesn’t happen often,” Wilson said. “This is one of those what you would call a low frequency, high severity event. Obviously with the potential here with something the size of a train, just the sheer inertia of the force of a train, if it hits a bus or a car or something like that then obviously there’s the potential for a lot of casualties.”

If motorists should ever find themselves stuck on train tracks with an oncoming train, Wilson provided advice.

“The first thing to do at all costs if possible is move that vehicle off the train track. If the train’s coming at them and for whatever reason it’s just impossible for them to get that vehicle off the track, hey that’s sheet metal. Exit that vehicle and get out of the way. You know, that sheet metal can be replaced, a human life can’t.”