Louisville & Indiana Railroad is working with local firefighters and Bartholomew County Emergency Management to provide a trauma camp to train emergency workers how to respond to train-vehicle collisions.

A mock grade-crossing collision will be set up near the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds on Saturday to train Columbus Township Fire & Rescue firefighters and other emergency organizations about safe and effective ways to respond to train collisions. An Indiana University LifeLine helicopter crew is participating in the event.

The six-hour training, known as Bartholomew County Trauma Camp, is part of a three-day opportunity for Indiana volunteer fire departments and area Emergency Medical Service personnel to train on actual train cars and vehicles staged to seem like a real collision.

Firefighters, medical and support personnel will all be working on scenarios that they don’t normally encounter.

While responders will be prepared to extract vehicle occupants, there may be surprises during the exercise, Columbus Township Fire Chief Dave Thompson said.

Although they are rare, grade-crossing collisions do happen, Louisville & Indiana’s Director of Transportation Jeremy Kramer said.

While firefighters are aware that higher-speed trains will be traveling north on the tracks from Seymour to Columbus, through crossings that do not have gates or lights, the main focus of Saturday’s training will be to be prepared for any type of crash that might happen anywhere along the rail line, Thompson said.

Since collisions between vehicles and trains are usually serious, firefighters will train on delicate extrications at accident scenes, including extricating a person from a train locomotive, something that many first responders may never have done before.

Louisville & Indiana is providing the train equipment for the exercise.

Indiana’s Operation Lifesaver will be providing information at the Trauma Camp about preventing deaths and injuries on railroad property — especially about trespassing, which now exceeds the number of deaths caused by collisions, said Jessica Allen Feder, Operation Lifesaver director.

Spear Street near the county fairgrounds may be temporarily closed Saturday afternoon between 2 and 6 p.m. as the exercise progresses.

Shannon Hinton, Bartholomew County emergency management director, cautioned the public to remember that this is only an exercise. While staged to look realistic, Saturday’s event will not be an actual train/car collision, she reminds residents.

Thompson said he hopes there will be representatives from each of the six county fire departments at the exercise, and said some out-of-state first responders from Ohio are also planning to train with local firefighters.

“We want as many as we can get to show up,” Thompson said. “We aren’t turning any firefighters away.”

How to participate

Firefighters and emergency responders interested in attending Bartholomew County Trauma Camp should call Johna Wilson at 812-350-4594 or visit columbustwpfirerescue.org/trauma-camp.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.