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senate Bill S. 546

Do First Responders Need Special Training To Handle Train Disasters?

Argument in favor

This bill provides extra training to better prepare emergency responders to handle rail-related emergencies. As these keep happening, this training is necessary to minimize damage.

Cary's Opinion
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04/08/2015
If we also ensure that those being trained will be the actual responders then yes, otherwise it seems like preparing to clean up spilt milk.
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Paul's Opinion
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03/23/2015
The rail cars need to be made safer, without a single doubt in my mind. Until legislators shake the influence of big business and make said railcars safer, this training is critically necessary
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chaos986's Opinion
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03/23/2015
We need to make the trains safer, but that takes time. Until then we need to prepare for disaster.
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Argument opposed

Train crashes keep happening. So, maybe we should try and make them safer rather than spending all this money preparing for wrecks? It’s not like they’re inevitable.

matthewhjacobsen's Opinion
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03/23/2015
As an EMT an former volunteer firefighter, I can easily say we have enough federally mandated "special" training. This more excess from politicians trying to act like they're doing something.
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Ann's Opinion
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03/25/2015
I worked in EMS for 20 years - we do not need to spend more money on a specific emergency. . . we have special teams in place for that and money would be better spent on helping defray costs for routine training.
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ark4162's Opinion
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03/23/2015
Not the federal gov's business. Leave it to the states
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bill Progress


  • EnactedDecember 16th, 2016
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The house Passed November 29th, 2016
    Passed by Voice Vote
      house Committees
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
  • The senate Passed May 9th, 2016
    Passed by Voice Vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
    IntroducedFebruary 24th, 2015

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What is Senate Bill S. 546?

This bill seeks to increase transport safety on trains, while establishing new safety training for emergency responders.


As its name suggests, this bill establishes the Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation Subcommittee, aptly acronym-ed “RESPONSE.” Reporting directly to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the RESPONSE committee would include FEMA members, local and state government members, rail and oil industry employees and, of course, emergency response personnel. Together, this Justice League of People That Know a Lot About Disasters would evaluate and form recommendations around training and best practices for railroad hazmat emergencies.


Within twelve months of their formation, the RESPONSE committee would offer recommendations on improving rail safety including:

  • Information on preparing communities near railroads, particularly small ones with limited resources;
  • An evaluation of funding for emergency responder training;
  • Considerations when drawing up disaster plans for train derailments (similar to plans for tsunamis or earthquakes);
  • Strategies for information integration, and an analysis of whether a database of rail incidents is necessary, plus information on public access of information about rail accidents.

Impact

Emergency responders, the Federal Railroad Administration, FEMA, officials in states where there are railroads, people that work on the railroad all the livelong day

Cost of Senate Bill S. 546

A CBO estimate is unavailable.

More Information

Of Note:

Sponsoring Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s home state, North Dakota recently experienced an oil boom with the drilling of the Bakken shale. Virtually overnight, small north plains towns found their rents rivaling those of major cities. While dropping oil prices have chilled the frenzy, production is still ongoing.


In addition to luxury apartments, another thing that’s come with the oil boom is increased attention to oil train disasters. Lacking pipelines, North Dakota oil producers have had to rely on trains for distribution. 


The danger of oil trains received widespread attention in the spring of 2013, when a train carrying seventy-two cars of crude oil derailed and descended into the downtown of Lac Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. Since then, oil trains have become a topic of increased media coverage. In the bill's press release, Heitkamp mentions a train carrying 3 million gallons of oil that derailed in Mount Carbon, West Virginia in February of 2015.  and a crash in Casselton, North Dakota, that spilled 400,000 gallons of oil and forced the evacuation of the town in December of 2013.


These are not isolated incidents. In the last two years, oil train derailments have occurred in VirginiaMaineAlabamaIllinoisMinnesotaNew Brunswick and Ontario, as well as in urban areas like Columbus, Ohio and Philadelphia. In response, rail industry leaders have agreed to make some changes, like subjecting volatile material to risk studies. Government officials have warned that, at the current rate, oil trains could derail ten times a year and kill hundreds of people. Local officials across the country say that they are ill-prepared to handle such derailments.


Sponsoring Rep. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced a previous version of this bill in the last Congress, but it never saw a vote. 

Media:

Sponsoring Rep. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) Press Release

Washington Times

The Republic

WDAY

Summary by James Helmsworth 

(Photo Credit: Flickr user mattieb)

AKA

RESPONSE Act of 2016

Official Title

A bill to establish the Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Subcommittee under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Advisory Council to provide recommendations on emergency responder training and resources relating to hazardous materials incidents involving railroads, and for other purposes.

    If we also ensure that those being trained will be the actual responders then yes, otherwise it seems like preparing to clean up spilt milk.
    Like (5)
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    As an EMT an former volunteer firefighter, I can easily say we have enough federally mandated "special" training. This more excess from politicians trying to act like they're doing something.
    Like (12)
    Follow
    Share
    I worked in EMS for 20 years - we do not need to spend more money on a specific emergency. . . we have special teams in place for that and money would be better spent on helping defray costs for routine training.
    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
    Not the federal gov's business. Leave it to the states
    Like (5)
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    It'll be more efficient if we were to spend scarce our federal tax dollars in making our rails safer, than on training people to deal with wrecks.
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    Does anybody in D.C. know how first responders are trained? My guess is, like every other topic that affects us outside the D.C. area, the answer is a big NO! You don't know because you are not first responders. Until then, don't tell us how to do our jobs!
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    All of the EMT's on here say it's not needed.
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    Isn't this already done? First responders already train in HAZMAT handling whether it's a train, truck or barge.
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    Improve safety within the rail system.
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    We need to make the trains safer, but that takes time. Until then we need to prepare for disaster.
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    First need to understand why they occur to fix the cause not the result.
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    We need to improve the infrastructure to prevent crashes..it creates jobs makes us more competitive and overall is better than closing the barn door after the livestock has escaped mentality
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    The rail cars need to be made safer, without a single doubt in my mind. Until legislators shake the influence of big business and make said railcars safer, this training is critically necessary
    Like (2)
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    Trauma is trauma, no special federally mandated TRAINing is necessary.
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    Definitely. Every scenario, train, boat, plane auto, etc. have their own signature hazards that training would prepare the First Responder to be aware of. The less the training, the greater the likelihood of avoidable injuries.
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    First responders already have training in vehicle accidents. This already covers most bases when it comes to train derailment. This money would be better spent elsewhere.
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    Funds better spent on prevention of wrecks than on training when it does happen. Besides, I would think that the emergency training of the personnel would include this already.
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    Trains offer unique scenarios for fire/rescue/ first responders. These are the people that save our lives and when approaching a non-routine rescue, I want them to be able to save as many as possible because they had the training they needed.
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    You would not need more training if congress did its job and fixed the infrastructure as promised in most of your campaign speeches
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    Fix the damn train system!
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