A new course helps prepare emergency response teams for dealing with potential crude train accidents


A new course is being rolled out to help enhance awareness and address the safety issues surrounding the potential derailment of trains transporting crude oil. Recently delivered to a large audience for the first time at the Missouri State Emergency Management Conference, the educational module is a result of collaboration between the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Association of American Railroads.

“One of the main areas of effort that we thought we could make progress in was providing education to first responders,” says API Senior Policy Advisor Suzanne Lemieux, who has been involved throughout the project. “What we developed was a course that helps them understand the basics of what they need to consider or be prepared for should they encounter an incident involving crude by rail.”

It is designed to be delivered by instructors to a live audience using a PowerPoint presentation that lasts roughly 60 to 90 minutes and provides a baseline in terms of the characteristics of crude oil and the rail cars that carry it, strategies for spill response and firefighting, and the incident command system.

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The target audience includes volunteer firefighters and emergency response professionals located in communities where crude is moved by rail, but emergency management personnel and those involved with Local Emergency Planning Committees and State Emergency Response Commissions would likely benefit from the material as well.

Reaching those who have specifically requested this information is the first priority. “We are still in the beginning stages,” Lemieux says, “but there has been a strong call for this course to be completed, so we wanted to make sure that we got it out there as soon as we could.”

This face-to-face learning format is the first element of a larger plan that will allow participants the option of absorbing the material on their own. “We’re developing the video now,” she adds, and there are intentions to create a student workbook and instructor notes that could be shared online. “Hopefully by the end of May we will have the video posted and the course materials up.”

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Those materials will be available on the website devoted to the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TRANSCAER), which is a voluntary outreach effort that helps communities prepare for and respond to a hazardous materials transportation incident. A DVD version of the program will also be supplied to fire houses across the country. “There are multiple ways that they can receive it, and they are all free,” Lemieux says.

“As we look at metrics, as we develop the video, as we get the materials created and posted, we’re making sure that our joint working groups between the oil and rail industries are coordinating with the federal government,” she adds, noting that they are working with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to ensure all involved are carrying the same message: “It is about first responders. It is about safety. It is about ensuring the safety of communities.”


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