Hearing on train derailment highlights capabilities of first responders

Blog Post created by mikehazell Employee on Jul 15, 2013

Greg Cade
NFPA's Greg Cade testifies at the July 10, 2013, hearing on the New Jersey train derailment. Photo: myfoxphilly.com

Hearings are underway in Washington, DC, about a train derailment in New Jersey that resulted in 23,000 gallons of toxic chemicals being dumped into a creek.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the accident, which occurred last November in Paulsboro. According to a report on myfoxphilly.com, the NTSB says these hearings are just a fact-finding mission and they are not looking to place blame.

At the second day of the hearing on July 10, Greg Cade, NFPA's director of government affairs, talked about the emergency response to the incident.

"For small departments, especially rural volunteer departments, it's pretty darn hard for them to be expected to have all that particular expertise in house," Mr. Cade is quoted as saying on myfoxphilly.com.

NFPA publishes two documents that are relevant to this incident:

NFPA 472, Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction, includes recommendations on how responders can evaluate the scene, assess potential harm, and provides details on available resources and training. The document recommends that if the incident is beyond the capabilities of the responders, to assume a defensive strategy, protect the public, and call for assistance from responders who possess the skills and equipment necessary to mitigate the incident.

NFPA 1620, Standard for Pre Incident Planning, recommends that responders assess risks within their communities (such as rail lines) and evaluate the potential hazard from an incident at that location. Once the risks are identified, the agency can measure its abilities against the requirements to stabilize the incident, and if it exceeds the local capabilities, identify what other agencies should be contacted.

Both documents are available for free on NFPA's web site.