A little extra training came in handy recently for local officials
and volunteers at the scene of a train collision and derailment.
As authorities from Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena and MetroLink
converged on the crash at Buena Vista Street and San Fernando
Boulevard on Jan. 6, Disaster Preparedness Coordinator Rich Baenen
realized he had seen something similar a couple of months before.
Burbank was part of a countywide disaster drill in November that
included a bioterrorism scenario in which a MetroLink commuter train
was full of exposed passengers.
That day, safety officials from Burbank and MetroLink went through
various tabletop rescue scenarios. Baenen said the interaction paid
off in a smoother response effort at the Jan. 6 crash, although the
truck driver died.
“All the faces that were there in November were at the scene, so
when it happened, they were very knowledgeable,” MetroLink Rail
Safety Specialist Jesus Ojeda said.
Among the plethora of fire and police officials at the scene was a
small platoon of six community-disaster volunteers. They tended to
the needs of more than 20 uninjured passengers who were taken to
Lundigan Park on Thornton Avenue. Volunteers helped serve free meals
and refreshments, and sat with the passengers.
With recent budget cuts in the disaster-preparedness division,
Baenen said the volunteer program might have to be reevaluated and
Ojeda has scheduled more training sessions with the Burbank Police
and Fire departments.
“Not only do they need to know how to rescue passengers in our
trains in the event of a problem, but it’s important also to protect
themselves,” Ojeda said of the officials with each agency.
“A disaster is no time to exchange business cards,” he said.