By Norman Miller/Daily News staff
The MetroWest Daily News
Posted Jul 23, 2010 @ 12:17 AM
FRAMINGHAM — From the outside, a passenger train looks large. But inside, the aisles are cramped and the sleeper areas are little more than closets.
For a SWAT team member, handling an emergency in such tight quarters can be daunting.
That's why officers from the Framingham, Middlesex Sheriff's and the MBTA police departments teams are spending time this week training on train cars.
"We train in buildings all of the time, we train in schools all of the time and we train how to approach vehicles and buses," said Framingham Deputy Chief Craig Davis. "We've never trained in trains. This was a hole in our training I felt we had to fill."
The training is free to all of the agencies, thanks to CSX.
The trains themselves are the brainchild of John R. O'Neill, a Sherborn volunteer firefighter, the founder of The Firefighters Education and Training Foundation.
O'Neill said the idea started after a hazardous material exercise in Sherborn in 1994. Frustrated with the lack of tanker cars available for training, he started an organization to buy and retrofit such cars for exercises.
That group has since joined with CSX and other organizations and now has more than 50 cars, including tankers, engines, cabooses, commuter cars and sleeper cars.
The cars have been used all over the country and Mexico for training exercises, O'Neill said. Some have been outfitted with infrared cameras for night training and windows that don't explode during a SWAT team's entry.
"You come in here at night and you can see the whiskers on your face with these cameras," O'Neill said.
There are also cars set up with classrooms so they can watch and review the training that's just taken place.
All departments that take part in the training will get a DVD of the action so they can view it later to improve what they did.
This week's training, which began Wednesday with classroom training, expanded to training at the CSX railyards on Hollis Street yesterday. The training culminates today with live scenarios.
"When we do force-on-force training, the days of police officers shooting at paper sheets is gone," said CSX Police Department Deputy Chief Bob Flake. "We actually shoot at each other."
Flake leads a CSX rapid response team, made up of 18 members from 14 states. They travel around the country conducting such training exercises on the trains.
Flake said the teams would practice scenarios such as removing an angry passenger to having someone shooting at them or one in which they don't know the identity of a gunman.
The biggest surprise for most who take the training is how hard it is to move in a train, he said.
"They're surprised by how confined the space is," said Flake. "That's the biggest challenge for them. If you get stuck going in the window, they (the shooters) can just pick you off."
Framingham's Davis said he hopes the department never has to use the training, but preparation is key for a SWAT team.
"We like to prepare for as many types of incidents that could occur in Framingham," he said. "We don't expect any problems on trains, but just based on the volume of trains that go through town, you have to prepared for anything."
(Norman Miller can be reached at 508-626-3823 or email@example.com.)
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