Fire fighters to receive critical information on hazardous materials under new federal rule

June 27, 2024

New federal rule for hazardous materials reporting

A new rule finalized on Monday by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) ensures that fire fighters and first responders will receive critical information about hazardous materials being transported through their areas.

The PHMSA rule mandates that railroads must provide immediate information to first responders about hazardous materials on board following an accident.

As reported by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), this measure is designed to enhance the safety and effectiveness of emergency responses.

IAFF General President Edward Kelly stated: “Fire fighters are all-hazard responders, often first to arrive at incidents like train derailments.

“Getting fire fighters and rescue workers the information they need in an emergency helps us mitigate further risk, protect the community, and stay safe on the job.”

Response to past incidents

This new rule follows a series of reforms triggered by the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, last year.

The incident involved 11 burning tank cars and delayed notification to fire fighters about the hazardous substances on board by nearly two hours.

PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristian Brown highlighted the importance of this rule: “This information will ensure the heroes that are responding to an incident can prepare for what they will encounter instead of waiting until after they get on scene to try to access this vital information.”

Requirements for railroads

Under the new rule, railroads must document the hazardous materials being transported and their locations on the train before departure.

Additionally, they must provide information about the train’s starting point, destination, emergency contact, and other emergency response details.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that U.S. fire fighters responded to over 1.1 million hazardous materials or conditions calls in 2021.

IAFF’s role in training and advocacy

The IAFF is committed to ensuring fire fighters are adequately prepared for hazardous materials incidents through its Hazmat Training Programs.

The organization worked closely with the Department of Transportation and PHMSA to develop the new rule, aiming to equip fire fighters with the necessary information to respond effectively.

Kelly emphasized the IAFF’s dedication: “The IAFF is committed to pushing for the reforms needed to protect the public and our members from hazardous materials emergencies.”

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