Norfolk Southern trains over 5,400 first responders in 2023

In 2023, Norfolk Southern trained 5,413 first responders through its Operation Awareness & Response (OAR) program. This included hands-on events across 15 cities with the company’s Safety Train.

Our partnerships with first responders in our communities are an essential part of our safety mission. OAR connects first responders across our 22-state network with information and training, all to help them prepare for a potential rail incident.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp joined metro-Atlanta first responders at a Safety Train event in Atlanta to kick off National Safety Month in June.

“We know a big part of public safety is training, to make sure that you’re prepared for whatever situation might come up,” said Kemp. “We’re very grateful for Norfolk Southern and what they’re doing to train 5,000 first responders each year.”

Since the launch of the program in 2015, Norfolk Southern has trained 45,454 first responders, providing hands-on experience and the knowledge to stay safe during a response.

“Our program is a great way for us to reach out and connect with the first responders serving our communities,” said Robert Wood, Director Hazardous Materials. “Norfolk Southern’s own professionals are the instructors, and providing these trainings gives us the opportunity to build relationships with the local heroes working to keep their communities safe every day.”

Rail is the safest way to move goods over land, and training for those rare incidents is unique. Norfolk Southern’s program provides hands-on experience and builds strong relationships between local first responders and Norfolk Southern.

At the safety training events, first responders train on specially- equipped tank and flat cars which are equipped with the valves and fittings they would encounter in a real-world scenario. The training begins in a traveling classroom, putting special emphasis on how to respond to an emergency. Classroom sessions include:

  • Safety Around the Railroad
  • Tank Car Identification & Assessment
  • Tank Car Valves & Fittings
  • Locomotive Emergencies
  • Responding to Railroad Emergencies
  • AskRail Mobile App
  • Response Strategies & Tactics

At several stops, first responders also participated in full-scale safety drills simulating real emergency scenarios with equipment and gear used in actual emergencies. 

In September 2023, Norfolk Southern broke ground on a new First Responder Training Center in East Palestine, Ohio. The new regional training center will expand upon the OAR program and provide ongoing, free training for first responders from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the greater region. This center will further strengthen coordination between railroads and first responders and attract fire fighters and first responders from the region.

First responders are heroes and we're honored to work alongside them to make our communities even safer. In 2024, Norfolk Southern remains committed to strengthening relationships and plans to train over 5,000 additional first responders.