Training for Rail Disasters

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A rail rescue training course at the Lauderdale County Training Facility this week taught emergency responders how to react in the case of an actual train derailment.

"The firefighters train every day in structural and hazmat situations, but they don't train in an actual train derailment. Trains go through small communities every day so this is valuable training," said training instructor David Sharp.

The importance of such a course, which includes responders from all over the state and surrounding states, is emphasized by the recent Amtrak derailment in Flora, Miss., in which one passenger died.

Officials say the number of victims could have been much greater, if not for the training that many of the firefighters received in Lauderdale County.

"It really proved that it was worth the training, and the guys were calm and cool and just went though and did an excellent evacuation of the train," said Bunky Partridge, director of Meridian's homeland security.

The week-long course takes up to 30 participants through intense and rigorous progressive scenarios. To make the scene more realistic, students from Northeast Lauderdale High School acted as "victims."

"I think this is a very important job," said tenth grader Leigh Ann Coppins.

The Lauderdale County Training Facility has five train rescue courses a year. Since the Flora derailment, Sharp said their free training courses have been booked solid.