The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), in partnership with community emergency groups, held a successful emergency response exercise in the area of Campanelli Drive in Freetown as part of safety training in support of South Coast Rail (SCR) Phase 1 service. As southeastern Massachusetts communities prepare for the beginning of train service to and from Middleborough, East Taunton, Freetown, Fall River, and New Bedford for the first time in decades, the emergency response exercise was held to allow public safety personnel from the area to receive hands-on commuter rail equipment familiarization training and emergency response.
“The safety of our passengers, crews and the communities we serve is always our top priority. Teamwork and strong local partnerships are critical to ensuring the best possible outcomes during an emergency response,” said Abdellah Chajai, CEO of Keolis Commuter Services, the operating partner for the MBTA Commuter Rail. “I want to thank all of the local first responders for participating in this training exercise and working hand in hand with us to prepare for the coming South Coast Rail service.”
“This exercise demonstrated the dedication and commitment our emergency responders have to providing the best response possible when the unforeseen happens,” said Freetown Fire Department Chief Harrie Ashley. “Multiple agencies from five different communities came to this exercise to better prepare for the challenges the South Coast Rail Project will present as we move closer to completion. We learned we can take on any challenge and, with the help of our mutual aid partners, overcome them. However, we also take away the fact we can never rest when it comes to training and preparedness for the next challenge. I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved in the preparation and execution of this exercise.”
Designed as a learning environment for public safety officials to exercise emergency response plans and policies, the drill simulated a real-world event in which a commuter rail train with 130 passengers strikes an occupied pedestrian vehicle at a grade crossing. Passengers are injured and others are in need of evacuation. The drill also included a simulated fire on one of the coaches.
The exercise tested the multi-jurisdictional response of local and MBTA resources to the staged event. Several technical rescues were initiated as part of the exercise drill, as well as a triage system for managing the simulated mass-casualty incident. Freetown Fire, Freetown Police, Freetown EMS, MBTA Transit Police and Keolis personnel responded to the incident scene, along with mutual aid assistance from Berkley Fire, Lakeville Fire, Rochester Fire and Fall River Fire using existing and new Standard Operating Procedures based on the new commuter rail lines. The exercise was developed and led by K&J Safety and Security Consulting Services, Inc.
The exercise is one of many parts of a safety campaign led by the MBTA as the authority prepares for the start of SCR passenger service. Other safety initiatives include the Safety First education program for SCR communities that highlights track and grade crossing safety through training classes, videos, brochures and presentations.
“Every day, I rest assured we have dedicated heroes putting their lives at risk to protect others,” said MBTA General Manager and CEO Phillip Eng. “These first responders hope never to need to implement their training, but when the call comes, they never hesitate. I'm proud the MBTA Transit Police, South Coast Rail project managers and Keolis have collaborated with local municipalities and their first responders. I cannot stress the importance enough for first responders to perform emergency response exercises on actual trains. In a real-life situation, familiarity with the train configuration saves lives. I want to thank the SCR team and all the heroic responders for their continued commitment to public safety.”