Thursday, December 01, 2016

U.S. House passes RESPONSE Act

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The House of Representatives approved Nov. 29 the RESPONSE Act of 2016 (S. 546), a bill "to enhance emergency responder training for incidents involving hazardous-materials rail transportation."

The RESPONSE (Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation) Act establishes a temporary subcommittee under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Advisory Council to provide recommendations and advice regarding emergency responder training related to hazardous materials incidents involving railroads. This bill, an amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, was reported out of the Senate in May 2016.

The RESPONSE Subcommittee is charged with developing recommendations, as appropriate, for improving emergency first responder training and resource allocation for hazardous materials incidents involving railroads after evaluating the following topics:

• The quality and application of training for local emergency first responders related to rail hazmat incidents, with a particular focus on local emergency responders and small communities near railroads.

• The effectiveness of funding levels related to training local emergency first responders for rail hazmat incidents, with a particular focus on local emergency first responders and small communities near railroads.

• The strategy for integrating commodity flow studies, mapping, rail and hazmat databases and other relevant data for local emergency first responders and increasing the rate of access to the individual responder in existing or emerging communications technology.

The subcommittee will be composed of members from various government agencies, including the Federal Railroad Administration, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and FEMA. The subcommittee will also include non-governmental members, including those from affected industries, technical experts, and emergency responder training providers.

“Rail safety is critical to the transport of goods and services through our country,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. “I believe the RESPONSE Act will succeed in improving the safety of our nation’s rail network.”