On July 21, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a rail safety summit. The IAFC took part in this summit and was represented by its Hazmat Section Chair, Chief Bob Royall. The summit focused on actions needed to reduce casualties, partnerships needed to improve safety and what the NTSB can do to help the stakeholders and organizations present with their efforts to promote rail safety.
During the summit, Chief Royall touted the strong partnerships the IAFC must foster rail safety, especially our partnership with Association of American Railroads. Chief Royall expressed support for the expanded use of emerging technologies that will enable first responders to gain a clear picture of a rail emergency and facilitate a more efficient response, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and electronic shipping papers.
Chief Royall also discussed the need to promote investment in emergency response training for rail and cited the Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training (ALERT) grant as a successful program that facilitates rail hazmat response training. The ALERT grant is administered through Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The ALERT grant promotes training for volunteer or remote emergency responders on how to respond to emergencies involving rail that transports crude oil, ethanol, and other flammable liquids.
Chief Royall mentioned he need for an emergency response hazmat information exchange center. Such a center would help harness hazmat emergency response-specific data that would allow first responders to make more informed and evidence-based decision-making. It would also allow first responders to identify trends in hazmat emergencies and facilitate the sharing of best practices.
The IAFC is grateful to the NTSB for the opportunity to participate in their rail safety summit. The IAFC will continue to engage with the NTSB and other government entities to promote the initiatives Chief Royall discussed at the summit.