When life-threatening storms surge and dangerous winds develop, freight railroads quickly implement a response plan to protect their employees, customers and infrastructure.
Freight railroads operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, over more than 140,000 miles of track across the nation’s vast and diverse landscape putting them in the direct line of natural disasters and major weather events, such as hurricanes. Over the years railroads have developed an effective strategy and process to protect employees, ensure network safety and mitigate impacts on their customers before, during and following major storms.
Railroads work with government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to monitor the storm’s path and its potential impacts. Shared information such as emergency declarations, regulatory waivers and response plans are aggregated into digital “Storm Information Dashboards,” which continually keep all teams up-to-date.
During extreme weather events such as hurricanes, railroads have established command posts and regularly hold conference calls with stakeholders to coordinate preparations, implement contingency plans, conduct impact assessments and initiate response actions. These plans entail a range of initiatives, including:
- Removing locomotives, rail cars, electric signals and switches from yards and areas at risk of flooding.
- Working with other railroads to reroute traffic out of areas likely to be affected.
- Requesting access waivers for impacted areas and staging rail employees, equipment and materials for prompt response and recovery actions.
- Continuously updating customers on storm preparations, potential service disruptions and projected restoration of service.
Railroads work with local, state and federal officials to ensure they can deploy teams to inspect, assess, and, as needed, clear, repair, or restore damaged infrastructure to resume safe train operations as quickly as possible. If necessary, railroads will often bolster local relief efforts by delivering critical supplies such as food, water, and lumber into affected areas and moving debris caused by storm damage out of these areas.