Md. Firefighters Catch Amtrak Training

Nearly 400 members of the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department have recently completed training with safety officials from AMTRAK.

Companies and command officers have been participating in Amtrak training for the past two months. In March, AMTRAK officials conducted two weeks of classroom training sessions at area fire stations.

Recently, crews that would likely respond to train crashes received hands-on training at the Ivy City Yard Rail in Washington DC. The CSX training was initiated by Second Battalion Chief John Keller after one of his first responses in a supervisory capacity was for a locomotive on fire. There were some awareness and training issues that occurred on the incident and he sought the guidance of a retired member of the department, Battalion Chief Doug Osterhouse, who is now employed by AMTRAK as an instructor in their Emergency Preparedness Department.

Between 150 and 200 passenger trains, AMTRAK and MARC, operate through Prince George's County each day, each having the capacity to carry 1,250 passengers on one train. Keller stated, “There exists a potential for a large incident that we need to be prepared for. This training has generated a lot of roundtable discussion at the fire stations on how to prepare themselves to handle such large incident.” During the hands-on training, Jeff Wiegel, manger of AMTRAK’s Emergency Preparedness Department, and Osterhouse conducted a walk-through of the different types of commuter trains. Firefighters were able to visually see the escape windows, emergency brakes, solid train construction and different designs of the trains. The training highlighted awareness and that operating on the scene of a railroad emergency is not a normal operation. Fire/EMS personnel will be faced with hazards they do not usually encounter. Crews need to understand the potential hazards around them while operating on a rail way, which would include but are not limited to the rail traffic and electrical hazards.

Osterhouse stated: “It is our desire that personnel attending this awareness training leave understanding the unique danger and potential for danger that heavy rail traffic brings into a firefighter’s operation.” For additional information go to for a 20-minute drill on rail safety.