Train Network Hazards
Rail networks around the world tend to use a mix of electric and diesel trains. This poses particular considerations for emergency responders. In the State of Victoria, the suburban rail network is electrically powered with overhead wires carrying 1500 volts. The country rail network is overwhelmingly powered by diesel locomotives.
A number of factors will affect train stopping distances. However, under normal circumstances, the following distances will apply -
- Inner suburban train travelling at 50 kilometres (about 31 miles)/hour - 160 metres (about 174 yards)
- Suburban train travelling at 80 kilometres (about 49 miles)/hour - 360 metres (about 393 yards)
- Heavy freight train in a country area travelling at 160 kilometres (about 100 miles)/hour - 4 kilometres (about 2.5 miles)
In general, the area within 3 metres (3 yards) horizontally or vertically of the nearest rail should be considered a danger zone.
If engaged in operations at a train station, the area on the tracks between station platforms is especially hazardous because there is often no escape route save for climbing back onto the platform. This area should not be entered without a lookout being in place.
Arrival on Scene
The control centre for the affected railway should be contacted to confirm that they are aware of the incident and can determine whether the trains should be halted on the line. A crew leader should consider requesting that the railway operator make a technical expert available to advise on operations involving a train, although in the first instance contact should be made with the train's driver or conductor.
Rescue vehicles should not be parked across railway lines. A crew leader should seriously consider sending one or more crew members up and down the line with a portable radio to watch for oncoming trains.
Operations on Scene
If working with an electric train, do not assume that the power is off without confirmation from the railway operator. On any rail line, take care around points or other interlocking parts: these can move without warning and crush or sever hands and feet.
Advise the driver and the railway control centre before commencing work near or under a train. Trains can move if air pressure in the braking system is lost, and derailment or obstacles may cause a carriage to be unbalanced and unstable. A railway technical expert should be consulted before taking steps to lift the train from the tracks: lifting can cause the train to derail and be extremely dangerous.
Watch for Audible Track Warning Signals (pictured). These are warning devices which explode when a train runs over them. Do not stand within 40 metres (43 yards) of such a device as an explosion may cause hearing damage.
A lookout should be posted to watch for oncoming trains. Given the stopping distances mentioned above, the lookout should be stationed 1.2 kilometres (0.75 mile) from the scene in a city area and 2-4 kilometres (1.25-2.5 miles) in a rural area. To warn the driver of such a train, a lookout should walk towards the train (while clear of the track), while holding both hands straight above their head or while waving a red flag. At night a clear light should be waved rapidly. They should alert the crew at the scene by radio.
In general, passengers should remain on the train if there is no threat to their welfare. Advice should be sought from the railway operator on this point. Once evacuated, passengers should be kept together in a safe area away from the rail line.