Oil by Rail: Who's Qualified in an Emergency?


More crude oil was spilled in U.S. rail incidents last year than was spilled in the nearly four decades since the Federal Government began collecting data on such spills. The U.S federal data does not include incidents in Canada where oil spilled from trains. Canadian authorities estimate that more than 1.5 million gallons of crude oil spilled last year.

The Risks

In the past, oil on rail emergency incidents were considered a low probability-high consequence risk for the rail industry, since the majority of crude was transported through the pipeline system. Now that production has increased, more crude oil is being transported by rail in cargo tank trucks. This has lead to the recategorization of oil on rail emergency incidents, which have now become a higher probability-high consequence event .

Hot Topic

With this increase of crude oil shipped by rail throughout the U.S and Canada, oil train safety is a hot topic among emergency managers and first responders, particularly in the event that one of those trains should crash. Emergency responders need to ensure they're staying up to date with these trends, through their qualifications and training.


Pre-incident planning of crude oil movement will provide a mechanism for making effective and informed decisions in advance of an emergency. It allows responders to gather valuable information prior to an emergency. Periodic review will provide timely and accurate information that can be useful during a hazardous materials emergency while responding. Pre-planning provides a tool for response agencies to begin the collaborative process of emergency planning.

Training & Qualifications

Responders should develop comprehensive hazardous materials pre-plans for transportation emergencies involving rail. These should include the potential impact on towns, communities, and facilities where those products are moved or handled. Important preparedness elements include:

  • Emergency contacts and notifications .
  • Locations and exposures.
  • Emergency response resources.
  • Communications and security.
  • Electrical and gas shutoff protocols.
  • Location, type and quantity of chemicals and their hazards.
  • Emergency medical support availability.
  • Work schedules and number of employees on at risk sites.
  • Emergency resources on at risk sites.
  • Contingency plans for fixed facilities.
  • Protective clothing available on at risk sites.
  • Compatibility of resources throughout a region.

First responders must remain vigilant of the type and amount of crude oil passing through their response area and ensure they're trained and qualified accordingly. We're always interested in anything that aids responders in improving your capabilities. Being able to track your qualifications and experience is one of the reasons we created [D4H]™ Personnel and Training.

Robert Charles

[D4H]™ Technologies

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