Norfolk Southern (NS) on March 21 launched the first in a series of safety courses, training more than 400 first responders based in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The Class I railroad, which on March 8 announced the creation of a regional training center in Ohio, held the new free trainings for two weeks at its Bellevue, Ohio, yard.
Participants from local fire departments learned about the parts and functions of trains as well as how to respond if something goes wrong, according to NS. The program centered around a safety train that included a locomotive, a specially equipped classroom boxcar, and several tank cars designed for 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.
The free trainings are an expansion of NS’s Operation Awareness & Response (OAR) program. Each year, the safety train travels across the railroad’s 22-state network, supporting more than 4,000 first responders.
“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,” NS 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 3.”
NS reported that has partnered with community leaders to identify a location for its new regional training center facility, which will provide free training for first responders from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the greater region and help “strengthen coordination between railroads and first responders in the event of an emergency response.”
“We will continue to find additional ways to better support first responders and their communities,” NS Chief Operating Officer Paul Duncan added. “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.”