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Under the new rule, railroads are required to promptly disclose specifics regarding hazardous cargo following a derailment

Norfolk Southern locomotives are moved in Norfolk Southern Conway Terminal (Via Jake Gabana/Shutterstock)

A new federal regulation finalized on Monday ensures that first responders can quickly access information about hazardous chemicals aboard a train following a derailment, allowing them to respond effectively.

In previous incidents like last year’s fiery derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio, firefighters faced danger as they fought the blaze without knowing the specifics of the cargo.

The local fire chief recalled it took 45 minutes to identify the contents of the 11 burning tank cars, while some assisting firefighters didn’t receive this critical information until two hours after the February 3, 2023 crash.

Tristan Brown, deputy administrator of the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, emphasized the importance of responders knowing exactly what hazardous materials are present so they can consult the government’s official guidebook and prepare appropriate protective gear and firefighting equipment.

The cleaning up of portions of a train (Via Sean Gabana/Shutterstock)

Identifying the chemical and its quantity also influences decisions about evacuation zones to safeguard the public.

Brown highlighted the diverse range of hazardous materials transported daily across the United States, each posing unique risks to responders and nearby residents or workers.

The new rule was issued just ahead of the National Transportation Safety Board’s final inquiry into the East Palestine derailment, where investigators will examine the crash’s cause and propose measures to prevent similar incidents.

Although train crews traditionally carry cargo lists in their locomotive cabs, finding them immediately after a derailment amidst the chaos can be challenging, especially if crew members have moved their locomotives away from the crash site.

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