With extensive training programs, collaborations with government partners, and the development of the AskRail™ app, railroads ensure that emergency responders have the necessary resources and information to handle hazmat incidents effectively. Railroads share resources and information and position personnel and equipment to help contain incidents, protect public health and the environment, remediate impacts, and resume safe operations as part of their planning, mitigation, and response efforts.

Nothing is more important to freight railroads than protecting their employees and the communities they serve. As the safest way to move goods over land, including hazardous materials, railroads are committed to making a safe network even safer. Each year railroads train tens of thousands of first responders.  Railroads also worked with multiple industry partners in 2014 to develop the AskRail™ app, which helps emergency responders effectively and safely respond to incidents by providing immediate information about railcars carrying hazmat.

AAR Director of Hazmat Compliance, Andy Elkins, gives an in-depth look at the app.

Along with maintaining 24/7 hazmat safety teams and emergency response experts strategically located throughout the rail network and providing 24-hour emergency hotlines for first responders and the public, railroads work in lockstep with industry and government partners. Some of these partners include 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).

First Responder Training

Join MxV Rail on a virtual tour of the new Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC) where thousands of first responders receive world-class hazmat safety training each year.

The nation’s freight railroads collaborate with partners and government organizations to train tens of thousands of emergency responders annually 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) at a newly-enhanced facility.
  • 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 the in-person training.

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 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). This sophisticated routing tool 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 includes 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 & Remediation

Railroads have dedicated police forces that work alongside emergency responders in the event of an emergency. Railroads also 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.

Additionally, railroads 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
  • CPKC 1-800-716-9132 (+001 52 82-8305-7911 Mexico)
  • CSX 1-800-232-0144
  • Norfolk Southern 1-800-453-2530
  • Union Pacific 1-888-877-7267

When a hazardous substance incident occurs, railroads follow strict regulations and work closely with government agencies and safety experts to immediately contain the situation, protect the health and safety of citizens and the environment, remediate any impacts and carefully return to service.