Handling hazmat: Longview tank car safety course one of two in U.S.

Handling hazmat: Longview tank car safety course one of two in U.S.
Two Decades of tanker training have brought in students from across the U.S. Photo by Jamey Boyum KLTV.

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - There are only two of them in the entire country, and one is in Longview. This week the Longview Fire Department is holding its annual Tank Car Safety Course.

And firefighters from across the country have been coming in to learn to deal with a toxic train derailment.

Longview Fire Department Training Chief Andy Parker has been bridging the gap between railroad employees and firefighters for years.

"We teach them how rail cars or tank cars are built, and how to assess them if they're damaged in a derailment," Parker said.

Thirty-two students are also learning about railroad terminology and equipment for better communication in a crisis situation. Firefighter Brian Brown works in Perryville, Arkansas and he says the railroad is nearby.

"There's some equipment here that I've never used before, and so I'm learning about new equipment that's coming out and better ways of doing something. These contractors they deal with it all the time and the railroad deals with it all the time. That's something we don't deal with a lot, so we're learning new knowledge from them," Brown stated.

The students and instructors aren't just firefighters, they're ...

"The Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway, and a lot of other local environmental companies help sponsor the school also," Parker said.

It's important for first responders to understand the depth of an incident.

"When we're there first, we can assess it, know what is the danger, if there is a danger or if it's an easy fix where we can tighten a bolt here or there and get it back on the way and clear the railway, clear the road," Parker revealed.

Generally, area firefighters are the first emergency workers on scene.

"We hope they go back and bring what they learned here - teach their guys on shift," Parker stated.

"Whatever I'm learning, I can take back to my guys and help them learn the same things I'm learning, and hopefully, help the community out by doing that," Brown added.

Ultimately, course instructors want to teach their students to teach to help keep everyone safe.

One of the tankers on the Longview Drill Field is from an actual derailment that happened in Longview about 17 years ago. Part of the week-long course is seeing how a tank car is built. The other tanker safety training school is in Pueblo, Colorado.

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