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Monday, April 19, 2010

PGFD Personnel Catch AMTRAK Training

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930, mebrady@co.pg.md.us

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 throughout the Department 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. Stations and personnel receiving the training are ones that would normally respond to incidents involving AMTRAK and MARC commuter trains. In April, safety officials from AMTRAK conducted the hands-on portion 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. Keller contacted retired PGFD Battalion Chief Doug Osterhouse, former heavy rail liaison officer for the Department. As it turns out; Doug Osterhouse is currently employed by AMTRAK as an instructor in their Emergency Preparedness Department and offered to facilitate training for the Fire/EMS Department.

Between 150 and 200 passenger trains, AMTRAK and MARC, operate through Prince George's County each day, each having the capacity of carrying 1,250 passengers on one train. Battalion Chief Keller stated, “There exists a potential for a large incident that we need to be prepared for. This training has generated a lot of round table 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 Doug 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 not limited to the rail traffic and electrical hazards. Instructor 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 firefighters operation.”

For additional training go to http://www.csxsafe.com/  for a 20 minute drill on Rail Safety.

Federal Funding Received for EMS Training Equipment

U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin (both D-Md.) announced that the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has received $96,000 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFGP). Senator Mikulski is on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the AFGP and fights each year to increase its federal funding. Senator Cardin is a member of the Budget Committee, which each year sets priorities for funding to federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.

“I know how important this funding is to Maryland communities – often it’s the difference between life and death. First responders protect our homes and communities, and the federal government has a responsibility to protect them by providing them with the tools they need to do their jobs safer and smarter,” said Senator Mikulski. “Every day when our first responders report for duty, they don’t know what they will face. That’s why I fight every year for the equipment, training, and staffing our protectors and communities deserve.”

Senator Cardin said, “First responders have always been on the front lines, keeping our families and our neighborhoods safe from harm. I thank these brave men and women for their continuing service and sense of duty to our community. I am proud to support federal investment through local grants like this, which is essential to ensure our community heroes have the equipment and training they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently.”

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department received the award under the Operations & Safety program area of the AFGP, and will use the funds to purchase EMS training equipment, including simulation mannequins, an ambulance simulator and Audio/Visual technology. Prince George’s County, MD, has the largest and busiest combination Fire/EMS Departments in the Country responding on nearly 135,000 calls for service a year with a career/volunteer staff of just over 2,000 personnel.

Prince George’s County Fire Chief Eugene Jones acknowledged the attention to detail that is required to be successful in receiving federal funding. “I commend Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant Brian Frankel and staff at the Fire/EMS Training Academy for successfully pursing this funding for EMS training equipment. These funds translate into being able to provide the best possible service for our citizens and residents.”

AFGP grants fund firefighting equipment, personal protection equipment, training, firefighting vehicles, firefighter/first responder safety projects, and staffing recruitment and retention, as well as public fire safety education. Since 2001, Maryland fire departments and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) units have received nearly $80 million in AFGP funding, over $10 million of which has gone to fire departments and EMS units in Prince George’s County.