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Washington State Train Derailment and the Importance of Training Exercises


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

On Monday, Dec. 18, a train derailed and plunged from a bridge onto a major highway near Olympia, Washington. Reports stated that some victims needed to be extricated with a chain saw, while other reports state that at least three died as a result of their injuries from the train derailment.  Early investigations indicate that the train was traveling at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.

Washington Disaster Highlights Training Need

Emergencies of this magnitude are serious for some of the obvious reasons: resource management, patient management, transportation of the victims to area hospitals - all of the logistics  involved to effectively manage these important pieces, and of course, making sure that there is enough personnel to manage the incident. While incidents like this are not as large as disaster events like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Harvey, the Washington derailment highlights the consistent need for training exercises and appropriate budgets.

Emergency management is an 'up-and-coming field.' The industry is growing substantially and is gaining tremendous momentum as a discipline. In doing so, training exercises become vital for personnel to keep them thinking about appropriate measures to take if faced with a certain scenario. Organizations like the International Fire Chiefs Association and the International Public Safety Association offer courses and webinars, respectively, to help train public safety personnel.  The International Fire Chiefs Association offers courses in handling train emergencies. These courses are ultimately important to help keep personnel up-to-date on appropriate emergency procedures.

Ultimately, jurisdictions must continue to budget for training classes like this. It can be easy to not want to sign up for such classes, (especially when some of these emergency scenarios are rare), but doing so will save lives and property. It will also allow personnel to contemplate these emergency situations differently.

Training And Budgets

Of course, any time a disaster like the train derailment in Washington State happens, there are numerous pieces that have to come together for the event to be effectively managed. Personnel and resource management combined with excellent logistics are important components of the management of the disaster. But, the training and budgets leading up to the event are vital pieces to effectively managing the event, too. Jurisdictions need to appropriately budget for training classes for their emergency personnel - and in rare types of events. Doing so will allow them to think outside-the-box - potentially tightening their skills during a major event - ultimately saving lives in the process.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.