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Disaster drills key in preparedness

Ryan Carter

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


perhaps shelved.

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.

Baenen agreed.

“A disaster is no time to exchange business cards,” he said.