DOT Agencies, USFA Produce Best Practices Document for Crude Oil Emergencies

Their partnership has produced a reference sheet for emergency responders.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, partnering with DOT's Federal Railroad Administration and the U.S. Fire Administration's National Fire Academy, have developed a best practices document for emergency responders who are responding to crude oil transportation incidents. They have produced the Commodity Preparedness and Incident Management Reference Sheet , which lists incident management best practices for these emergency responses.

The document was produced with an eye toward the increased production from shale reserves in states such as North Dakota and Texas. "Unit trains of crude oil are single commodity trains that generally consist of over 100 tank cars, each carrying approximately 30,000 gallons of crude oil," according to PHMSA.

These trains usually are more than a mile long, so "derailments can cause road closures, create significant detours, and require response from more than one direction to access the scene of the incident," according to the agency. Thousands of gallons of crude may spill, and tank cars may ignite, and "most emergency response organizations will not have the available resources, capabilities or trained personnel to safely and effectively extinguish a fire or contain a spill of this magnitude," according to the agencies, including their apparatus, equipment, and water supplies.

Such responses "will likely require mutual aid and a more robust on-scene Incident Management System than responders may normally use. Therefore, pre-incident planning, preparedness and coordination of response strategies should be considered and made part of response plans, drills and exercises that include the shippers and rail carriers of this commodity," the document states.

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