As I discussed in a previous blog, there have been incidents involving crude oil railroad shipments that have derailed, releasing the shipment and resulting in fires. First responders should be aware of the products being transported through their jurisdiction and be prepared for an incident.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued an Emergency Restriction/Prohibition Orderdetailing the requirements for the transportation of Bakken crude oil by rail. This order requires railroad carriers to notify each State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) of the expected movement of trains transporting 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude oil through their state. Based on the capacity of these tank cars, this would be approximately 35 cars.

The railroad carrier is responsible for notifying the SERC of the number of trains expected to travel through each county per week, providing a description of the crude oil, applicable emergency response information and the route of travel. Increases or decreases of 25 percent or more per week also require notification. Your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) needs to be active to keep current with this critical information. Be sure to:

– Actively engage with your LEPC to find out what’s traveling by rail through your community and how much.

– Train appropriately – Are all your members certified in HazMat operations? At a minimum, all frontline fire fighters should be. If not, the IAFF HazMat Department offers training at no cost – email [email protected] for more information.

– Equip appropriately – No department is going to have enough foam to deal with a large scale incident. Make sure you have the equipment you need if there is a fire, spill or contamination in a river/stream. Make sure you know what to deploy these resources.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has committed $5 million to train 1,500 first responders in 2014. The IAFF anticipates an invitation to attend one of the four-hour pilot programs scheduled for June and looks forward to working hand-in-hand with the AAR to ensure that emergency responders have the necessary training to provide a risk-based response to protect themselves and the public.

In a recent conversation with Union Pacific Railroad, AAR identified all fire departments within a 5-mile radius of their major routes that carry crude oil and plans to invite them to this new training at the Security and Emergency Response Training Center in Pueblo, Colorado delivered by Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), an AAR subsidiary).

In addition to Firefighter I, HazMat Operations is a prerequisite training available through the IAFF HazMat/WMD Department.