On March 21, Norfolk Southern introduced the first in a series of new safety training courses for first responders based in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The free trainings focused on informing and preparing over 400 emergency personnel in the region for how to respond to various railroad incidents.
During the class held in Bellevue, Ohio, participants from local fire departments learned about the parts and functions of trains as well as how to respond if something goes wrong.
“First responders are often immediately on the scene of a rail incident, and we want to ensure they have the knowledge and tools to work safely and effectively to protect the health and safety of their fellow citizens," Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw said. "I want to reiterate our profound gratitude to the first responders from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia who rushed to the derailment site on February 3rd."
First responders from across Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia gathered at Norfolk Southern’s Bellevue Yard for two weeks of safety training.
The program centers around a safety train that includes a locomotive, a specially equipped classroom box car, and several tank cars designed to provide first responders with hands-on training.
“It’s a huge benefit to be able to come up and take this class, learn specifics about the trains, how to identify stuff on the trains, product and what to do in case something does happen,” East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick said.
During safety training, first responders are provided hands-on access to a wide range of valves that they could encounter on a tank car.
Valves can be found on the top or bottom of tank cars to control the flow of fluids or gases. Some valves are used to protect the train car from excessive pressure or vacuum.
The training in Bellevue, Ohio is part of a larger effort to permanently bring railroad incident classes to first responders across the region as part of an expansion of Norfolk Southern’s Operation Awareness & Response (OAR) program. Each year, the safety train travels across the company’s 22-state network for trainings with more than 4,000 first responders participating. Part of the expansion will include developing a home base facility to house future safety classes in Ohio.
“We will continue to find additional ways to better support first responders and their communities,” said Paul Duncan, Chief Operating Officer. “We want to make sure that first responders have the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to safely and effectively protect the health and safety of their communities in the event of an emergency.”
Norfolk Southern is partnering with community leaders to identify a location for the new training center facility — the mission of which will be to provide additional, free training for first responders from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the greater region. The center will also strengthen coordination between railroads and first responders in the event of an emergency response.
Watch a 90 second overview of the OAR program and the safety train.