Chris Ranford Operation Lifesaver Honorary First Pitch

California Operation Lifesaver Volunteer Honored for his Dedication to Rail Safety

Minutes before the San Diego Padres faced the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park on September 3, Chris Ranford walked onto the field in his bright red Operation Lifesaver shirt. He never thought his work as a rail safety volunteer would bring him here, but as a life-long baseball fan, he was thrilled to have the honor of throwing the ceremonial first pitch. As his name was announced over the loudspeaker and the fans cheered, Chris wound up his arm and launched the ball as fast as he could, kicking off the Labor Day Weekend matchup.

The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner selected Chris as the representative for the first pitch to recognize his dedication as an Authorized California Operation Lifesaver volunteer and kick off September Rail Safety Month. His extensive outreach efforts have educated thousands of people across Southern California about the importance of staying safe around train tracks.

California Operation Lifesaver Outreach Event in San Clemente
Chris and other volunteers educate the public about rail safety at the San Clemente Earth Day event.

As a former railroad engineer and conductor, Chris has been involved in several incidents and has seen firsthand the tragic consequences of trespassing on the railroad tracks. He’s channeled these difficult experiences into important lessons for the public, speaking directly from his heart about staying safe around railroad tracks, including those used by the Pacific Surfliner between San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

California ranks No. 1 in the nation in incidents involving trespassers on the railroad tracks, with 191 incidents in 2016, a 38.4 percent increase from the prior year, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). California ranks No. 2 in incidents at highway-rail grade crossings, with 167 incidents in 2016, an 11.3 percent increase from the prior year, according to FRA.

These types of incidents are easily preventable by following a few simple safety rules.

Here are some tips from Operation Lifesaver:

  • Never walk on or along train tracks; it’s illegal trespassing and highly dangerous.
  • It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile — the length of 18 football fields — to stop.
  • Trains can move in either direction at any time, and there may be multiple train tracks.
  • Remember to cross train tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs and signals posted there.
  • Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.
  • When boarding the Pacific Surfliner, remember to stay behind the marked safety line on the station platform and use handholds as you board.
  • Report suspicious items, persons, or activity immediately to the Amtrak Police Department by approaching a uniformed officer, calling (800) 331-0008, sending a text to APD11 (27311), or by calling 911. Enter these numbers in your cellphone.

Learn more at pacificsurfliner.com/safety. For additional rail safety tips or to become an Authorized Volunteer like Chris, please visit Operation Lifesaver at www.oli.org or California Operation Lifesaver at www.caol.us.

Respect the Rails