For decades, freight railroads have shared with first responders a fundamental commitment to the safety of the communities they serve across the country.

By working with government and industry partners to train first responders and develop new ways of mitigating the potential risks of moving hazardous materials (hazmat) by rail, railroads support local communities and the men and women who protect them — before, during and after a railroad incident.

Key Takeaways

The North American Class I railroads:

  • Train tens of thousands of first responders each year.
  • Closely collaborate with industry and government partners, including the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • Provide 24-hour emergency hotlines for first responders and the public.
  • Have 24/7 hazmat safety teams and emergency response experts strategically located throughout the 140,000-mile freight rail network.
  • Have dedicated police forces that work alongside emergency responders in the event of an emergency.
  • Helped develop the free mobile AskRail™ app, which helps emergency responders effectively and safely respond to an incident by providing immediate information about railcars carrying hazmat.

First Responder Training

The nation’s freight railroads collaborate with different partners and government organizations to train tens of thousands of emergency responders each year with programs that fit their needs and availability — from general rail operations to detailed response courses.

  • Pueblo, CO: Railroads regularly provide funding for emergency responders to attend the world-class Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC) in Pueblo, Colorado where they receive hands-on training for rail incidents involving hazmat, including crude oil by rail (CBR).
  • Local: Railroads visit hundreds of local firehouses each year — including through the TRANSCAER Safety Train, a rolling classroom — to provide hazmat training and conduct emergency simulations that help streamline communication and improve incident response.
  • Free Online Courses: Railroads provide multiple options for online self-study programs to those who can’t attend in-person trainings.

Notification, Planning & Mitigation

Freight railroads actively collaborate with representatives from local fire and health departments, educational institutions, emergency response organizations, transportation departments and the public to help communities develop and evaluate their own emergency response plans. To better prepare first responders for a potential rail hazmat incident, railroads developed and share an inventory of emergency response resources along crude oil routes — including equipment location and emergency contacts.

Partnering with multiple government agencies, railroads developed the Rail Corridor Risk Management System (RCRMS) — a sophisticated routing tool that helps select routes posing the least safety and security risk based on factors such as hazmat volume, trip length, population density along the route, and emergency response capability. In addition to formal information sharing and mitigation efforts, freight railroads:

  • Hold regular on-the-ground collaboration with emergency responders, which include discussions about the hazmat being transported through a given community.
  • Rigorously train their employees on the proper handling of hazmat and unique aspects of responding to a rail incident.
  • Upon written request, provide bona fide emergency response agencies or planning groups with specific, confidential commodity flow information covering all hazardous commodities transported through the community.
  • Notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) about the routes of trains carrying one million or more gallons of Bakken crude oil in their respective states.

Emergency Response

In the event of an incident, the train conductor provides first responders with specific train and car consist information. As a backup resource if the consist is not available, freight railroads developed the free AskRail™ mobile app, which helps emergency responders effectively and safely respond to an incident by providing immediate information about railcars carrying hazmat.

Railroads have teams of full-time personnel and environmental, industrial hygiene, hazmat, and medical consultants and contractors whose primary focus is hazmat safety and emergency response. These trained professionals are strategically located throughout the nearly 140,000-mile freight rail network and are available 24/7. Railroads also strategically position emergency response equipment along their routes; maintain a police force that works alongside emergency responders in the event of an emergency; and provide 24-hour emergency hotlines for first responders and the public.


  • BNSF 1-800-832-5452 (option 1)
  • CN 1-800-465-9239
  • Canadian Pacific 1-800-716-9132
  • CSX 1-800-232-0144
  • KCS 1-800-892-6295
  • Norfolk Southern 1-800-453-2530
  • Union Pacific 1-888-877-7267