The 911 call comes in.

As the driver of an emergency response vehicle, you wonder how fast you can get to the collision scene, and often, you only have seconds to pick the best route. Operation Lifesaver asks you remember something important about that decision: It's impossible for trains to yield to your fire engine or ambulance at highway-rail grade crossings, and trains always have the right-of-way.

Trains cannot stop quickly, nor can they swerve to avoid a collision with objects or vehicles on the tracks. In fact, a loaded freight train weighing 6,000 tons and traveling at 55 mph can take more than one mile - the length of 18 football fields - to stop, even with emergency brakes applied. To complicate matters, studies reveal it's difficult for drivers of emergency response vehicles to hear a train's warning whistle signaling its approach because their own siren is so loud.

To help you minimize driving hazards at highway-rail intersections, and to ensure your personal safety when responding to a rail incident, Operation Lifesaver offers the following informational aids:

  • Emergency Response: Your Safety First - This Operation Lifesaver video provides key rail safety information for emergency responders. Order this video from one of OL's licensed vendors.
  • Safety Tips for Emergency Responders offers a quick rail safety refresher for first responders.
  • e-Learning for First Responders - This interactive program provides training and information about several scenarios that first responders encounter in incidents at railroad crossings and rail rights-of-way.

View our First Responders Resources page for more information, including where to find instructional videos from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Train Horn vs. Sirens

Question: Which is louder, a train horn or an emergency vehicle siren?
Answer: Deactivated sirens in an emergency vehicle approaching a highway-rail grade crossing won't necessarily allow the driver to hear an approaching train horn. Ambient noise levels in the vehicle's cab often drown out the train's warning sounds. Our e-Learning for first responders course provides EMS personnel and other emergency responders with information necessary to help them prepare their response to a railroad incident.

Learn more about Operation Lifesaver's e-Learning Course for first responders.