DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWWL) – Like much of Iowa, railways are important to the Dubuque’s economy, but what if those railways also posed a potential danger.
Firefighters trained Thursday for a scenario they never hope to face.
“The idea is to respond to hazardous material instance that may happen on or off the water,” said Dubuque Assistant Fire Chief Greg Harris.
Assistant Fire Chief Greg Harris says his department regularly trains with the railroad as a part of the CAER, which is a community response initiative that started in 2015 after several rail cars went off the tracks spilling ethanol into the river.
“That really got us involved and we realized we have a lot of flammables going through the area,” said Harris.
The railroad helped start the CAER program, according to Harris, and they’re still providing help today.
“They brought us in a valve trailer that went through all the different valves we would find on a railcar. So when we show up at that incident we would know how to shut them off,” said Harris.
Harris says if they can’t stop the spill at the source they would work to contain it, but hazmat situations are difficult on the water.
“Ya know land based we’re usually able to take monitors, set hotzones, walk all the way around it. So its usually pretty easy or contained in an industry. Where when we start to try and get boom on the water, we have to find where we can get access with our boats, how do we get them into the water?” said Harris. “On land we can kinda pick it up and set it down and it stays there, where water based we have to have the right anchors in the right place.”
Harris says the CAER group meets 4 times a year to discuss how they can improve public safety locally. He said they try to come up with a new training each time to be prepared for whatever danger they could face.