Norfolk Southern (NS) on March 8 announced that it will create a new regional training center in Ohio for first responders and expand its Operation Awareness & Response (OAR) program, which travels the company’s 22-state network and trains 5,000 first responders annually on how to respond safely to rail incidents.
According to NS, the Class I will partner with community leaders to identify a location for the new safety training center, whose mission is to “provide additional, free training for first responders from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the greater region and strengthen coordination between railroads and first responders in the event of an emergency.”
While the location for the dedicated facility, NS says training classes will commence on March 22 at the railroad’s Bellevue, Ohio, yard.
Additionally, NS is expanding its OAR program to make 12 stops in 2023, with four scheduled in Ohio. At the center of the OAR program, NS says, is a safety train that includes a dedicated locomotive, specially equipped classroom box cars, and several tank cars designed to provide first responders with hands-on training. The program also provides training on the Class I’s AskRail mobile app, which enables first responders to use their mobile phones to look up commodity and response information on rail shipments.
“These commitments are the direct result of my conversations with Governor DeWine and other leaders, all to better support our first responders and their communities,” said NS President and CEO Alan H. Shaw. “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. 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.”
“The derailment in East Palestine made clear that ensuring first responders are prepared for disasters involving hazardous materials is vitally important to the safety of communities,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “Often, first responders are volunteers, and their need to have the most up-to-date training and equipment is vitally important. Today’s commitment by NS is an important next step in the company’s commitment to make the citizens of Ohio and of East Palestine whole after the recent derailments, a commitment Ohio will continue to monitor closely.”