The IAFC today responded to the U.S. Department of Transportation's May 7 Emergency Restriction/Prohibition Order requiring all railroads operating trains containing one million gallons or more of Bakken crude oil to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) about the operation of these trains through their states.
"The IAFC commends the U.S. Department of Transportation for taking action to address public concerns about the safe transportation of large amounts of crude oil via rail. Fire service leaders share the administration's deep concern for public safety and the safety of first responders when rail incidents involving crude oil and other hazardous materials occur.
"The emergency order requires all railroads operating trains containing large amounts of Bakken crude oil to notify states about the operation of these trains through their states. The IAFC believes that while it is helpful for local responders to know, in general terms, how much crude oil and other hazardous materials are moving through their community on any given day, such notifications would do little to help local responders adequately prepare for a rail incident. Up-to-date, accurate and understandable community flow studies, however, would enable fire chiefs to be better educated in the planning and coordination of training.
"The IAFC believes that an effective training program for first responders in communities bordering rail lines with crude oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids shipments must utilize a blended approach. This blended approach should contain both web-based and in-person training modalities. Web-based training can play an important role in reaching the large numbers of firefighters and other emergency responders. Currently, only in-person training is funded by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration under hazardous materials emergency preparedness training grants.
"Helpful too, upon reports of an incident, is for the involved railroad to quickly produce pertinent records of the precise materials, amounts and locations that are on that specific train involved in an incident. The majority of rural, volunteer fire departments simply do not have the capacity, resources or technology to maintain such daily rail shipment records. Also, the rail industry can assist departments in determining how to effectively preposition and maintain foam caches and other hazard-specific resources that are essential to mitigate loss of life and property following rail incidents involving crude oil and other hazardous materials.
"Education through planning and a blended approach to training, coupled with an effective outreach program that cultivates good relationships with the rail industry, will enhance response and public safety during rail-shipment emergencies involving crude oil."
About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more