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U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) last week introduced the Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act, which aims to help local first responders be better prepared for a train derailment or fuel spill. A companion Senate bill (S. 2547) was introduced by U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) on June 26.The RESPONSE Act would establish a subcommittee under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Advisory Council that would bring together agencies, technical experts, emergency responders and private-sector constituents to review training, resources, best practices and unmet needs related to emergency responders involved in rail incidents, Kind said in a press release. The group would make recommendations to Congress within one year on training and resource allocation, training quality, funding levels, emergency response plans, the development of a train incident database and improvements to information flow to local first responders.Crude-oil traffic on major U.S. freight railroads grew by more than 6,000 percent between 2008 and 2013, according to the Association of American Railroads. Many large cities, states and the federal government have the training, capability and resources to respond to a hazardous materials incident on railroads, but in many communities police, fire and medical personnel are the first to arrive on the scene to secure the area and keep neighborhoods safe, said Kind."This bill would bring needed support to our local first responders so they can react quickly and effectively in case of an emergency," he said. "This collaborative effort will help ensure that communities of all sizes are protected. But more work remains, like enhancing track inspections, upgrading train tracks and increasing transparency so the public knows what’s being transported on our rails."Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) is a co-sponsor of the RESPONSE Act in the House.
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