Freight News, Rail

Atlanta area emergency responders hone skills on NS safety train

[ October 21, 2016   //   ]

Norfolk Southern Corporation’s safety train rolled into Atlanta the week of October 14, hosting 92 area emergency responders who received advanced training in safely handling potential rail incidents involving hazardous materials.

“The safety train is a mobile technical training center – a vocational school – for the continuing education of first responders and representatives of government agencies who support Norfolk Southern’s commitment to incident-free handling of hazardous materials,” said David Schoendorfer, Norfolk Southern’s system manager hazardous materials. “It’s a whistle-stop train that helps keep our communities safe.”

Staged at the Atlanta Amtrak station, the safety train attracted representatives of a number of area agencies, including Georgia Department of Transportation HERO units, law enforcement officers from the Habersham County Sheriff’s Department, and fire and rescue personnel from Atlanta, Cobb County, DeKalb County, Griffin, Henry County, Smyrna, and Spalding County.

“This training provides continuing education and familiarization with processes and equipment Norfolk Southern uses,” said Michael Lewis, battalion chief, DeKalb County Fire & Rescue in metro Atlanta. “It helps us understand the potential hazards of working with railroad equipment, and it builds relationships that enable us to work as a team with Norfolk Southern in any kind of rail emergency situation we may encounter. For us to be able to come here locally and receive this training is awesome.”

The train is visiting 18 cities in 13 states during its inaugural tour this year. To date, 1,515 emergency responders have received professional instruction on the train. At every location, emergency responders can choose from among three days of free training that includes instructor-led and hands-on learning. The train includes two boxcars converted into classrooms, four types of railroad tank cars used in transporting all types of chemicals, and two specially equipped flat cars.

“Norfolk Southern has a great safety record, but in the unlikely event of a train derailment involving hazmat, we want to make sure the communities we serve are prepared,” Schoendorfer said. “We are focusing on areas where we have significant hazmat shipments. It’s a best business practice to help with preparedness.”

The train’s next stop will be in Chattanooga, Tenn., Oct. 25-27. To register in advance for training in Chattanooga or at other stops scheduled this year, visit and click on “Training” and “Download Invitation” near the bottom of the page. The training is beneficial for all emergency responders, including representatives of fire departments, law enforcement, emergency medical services, hazmat response teams, emergency management personnel, military, homeland security personnel, rail regulators, shippers, and customers.

The dedicated safety train is part of Norfolk Southern’s ”Operation Awareness and Response” initiative launched in 2015 to educate the public about the safe movement of hazardous materials by rail and to connect emergency first responders in Norfolk Southern communities with information and training resources. Including instruction on the train and through other course offerings, Norfolk Southern in 2016 has trained nearly 4,000 local emergency responders throughout its operating territory.