The Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act, introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), improves training and support for first responders to respond to incidents such as oil train derailments in Wisconsin and across the Country.
“First responders put themselves in danger every day in order to keep our families safe,” said Senator Baldwin. “The danger facing Wisconsin residents living near rail lanes has materialized quickly. In the past year Wisconsin has had three major oil train derailments. There are more than 40 oil trains a week passing through Wisconsin, and that number is growing. As more and more volatile crude oil moves through Wisconsin by rail, it is critical that appropriate safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of deadly accidents and that our emergency personnel have the training, resources, and support to respond in case of tragedy.”
Last year in Wisconsin, there were train derailments in Alma, Watertown, and Superior. Senator Baldwin has been pushing to make sure first responders have the tools and resources they need when responding to hazmat incidents on the rails to keep Wisconsin’s communities strong and safe.
The bipartisan legislation will enable first responders to get quality training and have access to the appropriate resources and effective communications. Specifically, the bill would establish a public-private council that combines emergency responders, federal agencies, and leading experts to review training and best practices for first responders. This council, co-chaired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), would provide Congress with expert recommendations on how to address first responders’ safety needs with increased railway safety challenges so they can best protect communities across the country.
Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February 2015 by U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-WI).