ST. PAUL, Minn. - As it turns out all of the numbers and letters on the sides of rail cars really do mean something. Saint Paul firefighters and other first responders found out all about that and much more at a training session on the tracks Thursday.
The idea is to give them a first-hand look and feel for a rail car, so in the event of an emergency they're prepared.
"It could seem minor, car off the track, but if it contains a hazardous material we have to make sure we are setup in the right location," explained Butch Inks of the St. Paul Fire Department.
Inks said while it's important that first responders aren't exposed to anything hazardous, additionally they have to be able to identify what the hazardous material might be.
So many things are now transported by rail, the numbers indicating what product is being transported can be found on every side of a rail car, just in case a side is damaged in an incident.
The first several minutes of an incident is key, despite how rare the occurrence may be.
"Over 99.99 percent of hazardous materials shipped by BNSF makes it to its destination safely, without incident, without release," explained BNSF spokesperson Amy McBeth. "So what we're training for is a very, very, very small percentage of something that might occur.
It's that slight chance that it could happen, to help and prevent a greater tragedy when it does.
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