Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad (PSAP) co-sponsored a training last week with about 45 first responders in Grays Harbor County. The purpose of the training was to practice interagency cooperation to ensure rapid and efficient emergency response.
This is one of several such trainings that the railroad has provided to Washington community first responders.
“It served its purpose,” said Chief Tom Hubbard of the Aberdeen Fire Department. “It got people in the room who would be dealing with this. It’s been one of my goals to get rid of these little dividing lines, like city and agency boundaries. In real emergencies, we’re all going to be involved, and the more we practice, the better we will cooperate.”
The training, provided at no cost to the participating first responders, included two hypothetical scenarios involving local and state organizations including Washington State Patrol, the Aberdeen Fire Department, Grays Harbor Fire District, the Department of Ecology, both local hospitals, Grays Harbor 911 and Grays Harbor Department of Emergency Management.
Under Washington law, the State Patrol takes command in unified response efforts, while the county’s emergency coordination center would facilitate access to state resources. The Department of Homeland Security Region 3 also sent a representative to simulate coordination with the federal government.
“We broke the room into three functional groups: law enforcement, fire department and other cooperators,” explained Josh Connell, PSAP general manager, who helped organize the event. “Even though participants were divided into three tables, they quickly started sharing information because both scenarios required a unified effort.”
A unified effort is exactly what it takes, Chief Hubbard explained. That was a lesson cemented in participants’ minds by last week’s training, he said. PSAP leaders and Chief Hubbard share a common goal: to repeat these exercises frequently – at least twice a year.
“The Department of Ecology was very appreciative of the effort,” Hubbard said. “The more we do trainings like this, the better we’ll be if something happens. We just need to keep exercising it.”
“We have such respect for our community first responders,” added Connell. “We want to ensure our safety partners have the latest information and training in the unlikely event that they need to respond to a rail incident.”