Emphasizing the importance of cooperation with local emergency responders and an commitment to preparedness, Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), President Lisa Stabler testified before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations, and the District of Columbia about the railroad industry's continuing safety efforts.
“Railroads devote enormous resources towards enhancing safety and preparing for emergency situations,” Stabler told the subcommittee. “Indeed, railroads are committed to demonstrating that nothing is more important than the safety of their employees, their customers and the communities they serve.”
In response to the sharp increase in crude oil production in North America and subsequent demand for oil shipments by rail, Stabler said new crude oil emergency response curriculum and training is being developed at TTCI’s Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC) in Pueblo, Colo. The classroom and in-field training is designed for emergency responders from all over the country and will include three days of programmatic teachings and field exercises focused on crude oil spill and derailment procedures.
Additionally, SERTC, which currently trains more than 2,000 emergency responders annually at the Colorado facility, has added a general crude oil safety module to all of its existing courses and is developing a new crude oil emergency response training video. The new efforts to train emergency responders about crude oil are a direct result of the voluntary measures to increase crude oil safety standards that the rail industry recently agreed to with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Stabler said the rail industry is committed to training emergency responders and that the industry actively trains more than 20,000 emergency responders around the country each year. Many are trained to assist their communities prepare for and to respond to hazmat incidents through the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response Program (TRANSCAER).
Stabler also described additional safety initiatives undertaken by the railroads in the area of emergency response preparation. A new web-based system, due to launch by the end of 2014, will allow emergency responders to input the identification number of a particular rail car and access detailed information about the car’s contents, the handling railroad, the handling railroad’s emergency contact phone number and emergency response information.
“Railroads maintain networks of hazmat response contractors and environmental consultants, strategically located throughout their service areas, who can handle virtually any air, water, waste or public health issue,” Stabler continued. “These contractors, who are on call at all times of the day and night, have multiple office and resources storage locations and a vast array of monitoring equipment. Railroads also have comprehensive ‘standard of care’ protocols that ensure that response scenarios, such as community evacuations, are addressed promptly and professionally.”
Stabler asked the subcommittee to make sure the government does its part to promote safety on America’s railroads, and said, “Given SERTC’s importance in our ongoing work to improve rail safety, I respectfully suggest that this committee encourage FEMA to focus on emergency response for rail transportation incidents.”