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Norfolk Southern Railway's safety train will visit 23 cities this year as part of its Operation Awareness and Response program, which provides first responders with free training on how to safely respond to a potential rail incident.The train kicked off this year's schedule earlier this week with three days of training at NS' rail yard in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, according to an NS press release.At each stop, NS hazardous materials specialists lead a four-hour course that combines classroom instruction and hands-on training on a locomotive and rail cars. Emergency personnel attending the training learn about railroad operations, basic safety precautions, initial-response procedures, types of rail equipment, and who to contact in an emergency."Our safety train is helping Norfolk Southern build and strengthen relationships with first responders across our network," said David Schoendorfer, system manager hazardous materials. "We want them to be equipped with the tools and resources they need to safely do their jobs when responding to potential rail incidents. It's all about helping our communities be prepared and safe."After completing the course, qualified emergency responders can download AskRail™, a free mobile application that provides immediate information about rail cars carrying hazardous materials should a rail incident occur.The train consists of a dedicated locomotive, two boxcars converted into classrooms, three tank cars used in transporting all types of chemicals and two flat cars equipped with intermodal containers and multiple tank car valve arrangements that can simulate leaks.The train's 2018 schedule will include stops in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.NS first launched the safety train program in 2016.