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Putting out fires

Chad Edwards, manager property loss prevention, demonstrates a fire extinguisher simulation to Gaymeon Gibson, environmental compliance officer.

At a safety expo exhibit sponsored by NS' Safety and Environmental Department, employees spent the afternoon putting out fires. No worries, though - these were all digital blazes.

The department is responsible for ensuring that employees are trained in the proper use of fire extinguishers at all locations that have them, said Chad Edwards, manager property loss prevention. Currently, employees can take a 10-minute Web-based course, pass a short test, and get a certificate. However, Edwards said the department wants to develop hands-on training to simulate the real thing.

That's where the expo exhibit came in. On display was a computer-based training software called Pyrosoft, one of the programs NS is evaluating. It includes a fire extinguisher equipped with a laser system, a projector screen, and software that generates a simulated blaze that a trainee must douse by properly operating the extinguisher using the "PASS" method - Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep. Some training programs on the market include realistic touches such as hot air blasts to simulate heat from a fire, Edwards said.

"I want to find something that's user friendly that we can roll out to all employees," Edwards said. Using the simulator, expo goers got to try their hand at putting out a fire, sweeping the extinguisher back and forth, just like the real thing.

As information, Edwards said his department oversees 147 fire suppression systems in offices, shops, and intermodal facilities across NS.