Bill seeks better training for responders to oil train crashes


Washington – A Senate committee has unanimously passed a bill aimed at improving training for first responders to oil train crashes and other railroad hazardous materials incidents.

The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), comes in the wake of a series of high-profile oil train crashes in North Dakota and throughout the country.

The Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act would establish a panel featuring representatives from federal agencies, emergency response units, technical experts and private industry.

Heitkamp said the group would provide a set of recommendations within one year. It would assess a variety of topics, including:

  • Quality of training for local first responders, especially for those who work in small communities near railroads
  • Funding levels as they relate to training first responders for oil train crashes and other rail hazmat incidents
  • Establishment of a train incident database
  • Accessibility of relevant, timely information for local emergency responders

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the bill March 4. As of press time, the full Senate had yet to vote on it.