A spokesperson for Norfolk Southern told The Ohio Star that the rail company will create a new training center in Ohio for first responders.
This follows Governor Mike DeWine‘s announcement on Monday, that the state of Ohio needs more extensive train derailment response training for first responders and intends to invest almost $1 million on training programs.
Keeta Bell, spokesperson for Norfolk Southern, told The Star that the new safety training center will concentrate on offering additional, free training to first responders throughout the region, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Bell told The Star that the effort will improve communication between railroads and first responders in the event of an emergency.
According to Bell, Norfolk Southern will also broaden its Operation Awareness and Response (OAR) program, which travels the company’s 22-state network and instructs first responders on how to react safely to rail events.
According to Norfolk Southern, In 2023, four of the 12 scheduled stops will be in Ohio.
The program’s safety train, which consists of a dedicated engine, box cars with specialized classroom equipment, and several tank cars, will provide first responders with practical training according to a press release from Norfolk Southern.
According to DeWine the February 3rd East Palestine derailment made it clear that it’s critically important to prepare first responders for these types of disasters.
“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. 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 Norfolk Southern 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,” DeWine said.
According to Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw, first responders are often the first on the scene of a rail incident and this safety training center will help ensure they have the knowledge and tools needed to respond to a rail disaster.
“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. 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,” Shaw said.
Bell told The Star that Norfolk Southern will select the center’s location with the assistance of community leaders.
Until a location is picked, training classes will begin on March 22nd at Norfolk Southern’s Moorman Yard in Bellevue, Ohio.
Shaw is scheduled to appear before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Thursday for a full committee hearing on addressing the environmental and public health threats from the Norfolk Southern train derailment and chemical release in East Palestine, Ohio.
– – –
Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Norfolk Southern Worker” by Norfolk Southern.