PLYMOUTH, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — We’ve all been made hyper-aware of railroad disasters after the recent derailment and explosion in Ohio near the Pennsylvania border in February.

On Wednesday, a Luzerne County Rescue Unit held a training course so local first responders are prepared for the unexpected.

More than a dozen local first responders got an important lesson in railroad safety, one that could make the difference between life and death.

First responders are given their name for a reason, they are first on scene when disaster strikes.

“Years ago you had typical bread-and-butter incidents, things were a lot more simpler. Over the years, times have changed. We’ve been getting called to different types of things. You see it all across the country, the types of incidents, the scales of incidents that we’re seeing are changing,” said Assistant Foreman and Engineer of the Plymouth Fire Rescue Lori Bolesta.

And as time evolves, so do the incidents that emergency services respond to.

“And how often do we see railroad incidents? All too often,” said Bucks County Community College State Fire Instructor, Hondo Nobel.

An emergency response to railroad incidents training course was held at Plymouth Fire Company Number 1 to better equip local first responders to face the unexpected.

“Even though we train, train, train, train, no one’s ever prepared for stuff like that to happen but hopefully we gain enough that we need to know,” said Colin Huston, a firefighter with the Plymouth Fire Rescue.

“The more you learn, the more you grow, the more you know, the better and more efficient and safer everybody can be,” said Bolesta.

Although police and EMS will be called to the scene of a railroad disaster, the fire department will most likely be contacted first and will have to take the reigns.

“The firemen are usually the first ones there, and they basically need to know who to contact and how,” said Nobel.

If there is a major railroad incident in your community, it will escalate quickly and it is essential emergency services are prepared for anything.

“Every time one comes up, it’s big because of the quantities involved,” Nobel stated.

The first step in being ready for a major disaster is pre-planning.

“I can’t stress pre-planning this enough. Know what’s in your area, know the potential, and know who you’re gonna have to contact and what to expect when you do,” Nobel explained.

Experts teach responders to first know how to gain access to the disaster.

They also should be aware of any obstacles they may face getting there, and understand the area surrounding the railroad.

Whether the incident involves derailment or a hazardous spill, being prepared in advance will make all the difference.

“Better be prepared when they happen because it’s like life. It’s gonna happen sooner or later,” Nobel continued.

The first responders Eyewitness News spoke with say courses like this can truly save lives when disaster strikes.