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Helping First Responders Prepare for Hazmat Transportation Emergencies


Last year, Congress authorized a new grant program to help fund training for remote and volunteer first responders on how to handle incidents involving shipments of crude oil, ethanol, and other flammable liquids by rail.  The Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training (ALERT) program has already helped volunteer first responders overcome limited resources to ensure they have the specialized training necessary to keep the public safe.

The non-profit organizations that received a total of $5.9 million in ALERT grants this year, have already put the money to good use. By developing a combination of in-person and web-based trainings, the grantees are helping train as many remote and volunteer first responders as possible.

For example, the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI) in Somerset, KY, and the Center for Rural Development in Pueblo, CO, have partnered to construct five railcar simulation trailers to improve their training curriculum. They have held nine remote training sessions in eight states, training almost 200 first responders. They also developed web-based training that more than 400 first responders have already completed, and more than 900 are registered for. First responders can request or register for training opportunities online.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)  in Fairfax, VA, is also using the grants to improve training by working closely with partners in the emergency response and rail industries to develop a curriculum that teaches first responders how to respond to train derailments involving flammable liquids. The IAFC and its partners have already hosted in-person training in three locations, trained more than 100 first responders, and have developed two specialized online training courses on ethanol emergencies and hydrogen response.

Additionally, the University of Findlay’s All Hazards Training Center in Findlay, OH, has completed 13 in-person training events in four states, seeing an average of 41% improvement on trainees’ post-test scores. First responders within a 500-mile radius of the center can learn more about and request a training course on their website.

Congress has reauthorized the ALERT program for 2017 and we are hopeful it will continue to help first responders throughout the country get the training they need to ensure public safety for years to come.

Article by Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez, edited for context and format by CBRNE Central.

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