BY MARIE PULEO | POMPANO BEACH NEWS REPORTER
A training exercise involving a simulated derailment of a Tri-Rail passenger train that has struck a car is scheduled for this Wednesday, Nov. 3, from 9am until 1pm, along the train tracks located at Andrews Avenue and MLK Boulevard in Pompano Beach.
Pompano Beach Fire Rescue will be hosting the mass casualty incident (MCI) training exercise, which will include a mutual aid response from a Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) helicopter unit, BSO Fire Rescue, and the fire departments of Fort Lauderdale, Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Oakland Park, Lauderhill and Margate.
As part of the Tri-Rail derailment training exercise, a manakin inside the car, which will be on its side, will be extracted and taken to the helicopter for a simulated patient loading, according to Pompano Beach spokesperson Sandra King.
Approximately 25 “victims” on board the train will be extricated, treated and transported. All ground transportation will move to a staging area nearby until the drill is concluded. The victims will be Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers from Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale, as well as Tri-Rail participants. The victims won’t actually be transported to nearby hospitals, as staffing is “severely limited right now from the COVID-19 pandemic.” However, a representative from the Broward Health District will be on site, and will be collaborating with crews to create another drill in the near future that will have hospital staff involvement, said King.
The entire Tri-Rail train, consisting of one locomotive and three passenger cars, will be “smoked up” using smoke machines that diffuse a non-toxic liquid based smoke product. Dry smoke packs will be used for some aspects of the drill as well.
The Tri-Rail train tracks located at Andrews Avenue and MLK Boulevard were chosen for the MCI training exercise because the area offered the best location for this type of realistic scenario, with access points for emergency vehicles, mostly out of the public’s vantage point, and it does not interfere with any railroad or vehicular traffic, said King.
During the exercise, all Tri-Rail trains will operate as scheduled and will not be interrupted. The exercise will take place on an off-shoot of tracks, not on the main tracks. There should be no disruption to vehicular traffic, other than an occasional pause for the rescue trucks arriving or leaving the drill area, which will be handled with the assistance of BSO deputies, said King.
The training exercise is designed to help Tri-Rail crews handle emergency situations. Its purpose is also to train first responders in various aspects of dealing with mass casualty incidents, including size-up, triage, Haz-Mat, landing zones set up and working with multi-agency responses.
Pompano Fire Rescue held a similar, but smaller, MCI drill with Tri-Rail in October of 2019.
On October 25, 2021, Tri-Rail returned to its full train schedule, after running on a reduced schedule for about a year-and-a-half due to the ridership effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.