Tank car donation aid to St. Landry first responders

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

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"We try to educate drivers and make sure they know that when you come to a railroad crossing if the lights are flashing or if the gate arms are coming down just stop and wait and allow the train to pass by and then you will be able to stop safely and you won’t have any problems"


A tank car donated by the Union Pacific Railroad to the St. Landry Parish Public Safety Training Center will give first responders potentially life-saving experience when they are called upon to deal with a railroad emergency.

So says parish president Bill Fontenot, who noted that “being familiar with their equipment will enhance our ability to respond” because emergency crews will get hands-on training with the equipment.

A main line of the Union Pacific runs some 50 miles through St. Landry Parish and is an important link between refineries and industrial plants in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana and the Port of New Orleans and similar industries on the Mississippi River. A good part of the rail traffic through St. Landry consists of tank cars carrying raw materials or refined products to and from these industries.

“You can’t measure the value of training on the specific equipment that passes through the parish,” Fontenot said. “Understanding what to do and how to do it can save time, and possibly lives, when the men and women of our public safety departments are called in an emergency.”

The training center is used by first responders from throughout the parish, individually and in joint training. In a recent exercise, for example, firefighters from the St. Landry Parish Fire District 1, St. Landry Parish Fire District 3, St. Landry Fire District 5, Sunset Volunteer Fire Department, and Opelousas Fire Department participated in a classroom and hands-on flammable liquids and gas training. In that exercise they used props from the Emergency Training Institute in Baton Rouge, to learn and practice important skills.

The Union Pacific donation adds to the array of props that are available to responders and is part of a larger commitment by freight railroads “to the safety of the communities they serve all across the country,” according to the Association of America n Railroads.

“The nation’s freight railroads collaborate with different partners and government organizations to train tens of thousands of emergency responders each year with programs ranging from general rail operations to detailed hands-on rail response courses,” according to the association.

In addition to donating equipment, Union Pacific has worked with St. Landry police agencies for years to patrol railroad tracks for people who rush to beat trains and for pedestrians walking along tracks, and in programs to teach drivers how dangerous it can be.

"One thing we see most of all is impatient drivers. And when they come to a railroad crossing, instead of stopping for the gate arms or the red lights, they try to beat the train and try to get across the crossing," according to Jeff DeGraff a Union Pacific spokesman.

"We try to educate drivers and make sure they know that when you come to a railroad crossing if the lights are flashing or if the gate arms are coming down just stop and wait and allow the train to pass by and then you will be able to stop safely and you won’t have any problems"

Three things to know about this story:

  1. A tank car donated by the Union Pacific Railroad to the St. Landry Parish Public Safety Training Center will give first responders potentially life-saving training/
  2. A good part of the rail traffic through St. Landry consists of tank cars carrying raw materials or refined products to and from refineries and industrial plants. 
  3. In addition to donating equipment, Union Pacific has worked with St. Landry police agencies for years to patrol railroad tracks for people who rush to beat trains and for pedestrians walking along tracks.

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