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Welcome to OAR!

Launched in June 2015, the goal of OAR is to educate the public about the economic importance of the safe movement of hazardous materials by rail and to connect emergency first responders in Norfolk Southern communities with information and training resources. Our website,,  has the following information (and a lot more) available at the touch of a mouse.
  • Training options and sign-ups:
    • Hazmat Safety Train Program
    • Tabletop Exercises
    • SERTC Openings
    • Online Training
  • Information on what NS carries
  • How to get the AskRail™ app and other useful response tools
  • Pictures of the NS 9-1-1 locomotive
  • Railroad Emergency Phone Numbers

Norfolk Southern Safety Train Update and 2020 Schedule

The Norfolk Southern Safety Train will kick off its tour in March of 2020.  The Safety Train will make 18 stops in 10 different states across the Norfolk Southern system. Over the course of the last four years, over 9,100 first responders have been trained on the NS Safety Train. The Safety Train has made over 80 stops in 18 different states.    

Please see below for the 2020 schedule and sign up for classes using the calendar on the TRANSCAER® web-site at  

March 17-19                      Norfolk, VA
March 31- April 4              Charleston, SC
April 14-16                         Valdosta, GA
April 28-30                         Anniston/Gadsden, AL
June 2-4                            Bluefield, WV
June 16-18                        Detroit, MI
June 30- July 2                  Elkhart, IN
July 8-9                              Wentzville, MO
July 28-30                          Kansas City, MO
August 11-13                      Lafayette, IN
August 25-27                      Alliance, OH
September 1-3                   Pitcairn, PA
September 15-17               Williamsport, PA
September 29-Oct 1           Harrisburg, PA
October 13-15                     Macon, GA
October 27-29                     Birmingham, AL
November 10-12                 Mobile, AL

Meet the Norfolk Southern HazMat Team:
Paul Williams 

Paul Williams is Norfolk Southern’s Regional Manager of Hazardous Materials, responsible for all aspects of hazardous materials compliance, emergency responder training, emergency preparedness and response, and environmental cleanup and remediation activities across the Southern region. 
A Virginia native, Paul received a degree in Economics from Virginia Tech. Paul began working for the Association of American Railroads in Washington, DC as a Transportation Analyst in 1979 and in 1982, he started work in the AAR Bureau of Explosives. Later, Paul was moved to the Transportation Technology Center’s Emergency Response Training Center (ERTC) in Pueblo, CO. There, he managed the ERTC budget, the Bureau of Explosives field functions, and regulatory functions. He also served on the AAR Hazardous Materials Committee. When a job opened up at Norfolk Southern, Paul “jumped at the chance to get back to Roanoke Valley.”
Paul finds work on Norfolk Southern’s HazMat team incredibly fulfilling, stating, “I get the best of both worlds. I have a field job that requires both office time and field time. Being on call 24/7, you never know what the next challenge will be.” Paul is also glad to be back home in Virginia and enjoys getting to experience all four seasons on the East Coast. 
When asked about the proudest moment of his career, Paul said that he most enjoyed assisting in the production of the Safety Train. To him, the Safety Train represents “out of the box thinking" that resulted in an amazing training tool for first responders across Norfolk Southern’s network.
Norfolk Southern is fortunate to have Paul Williams on the HazMat team. Stay tuned for the next NS OAR newsletter to meet another member!

 Norfolk Southern Preparing Our Communities

Norfolk Southern Railway operates trains over approximately 20,000 miles of track in 22 states through communities big and small.  Norfolk Southern is dedicated to providing training to and forging a partnership with the first responders in those communities.
NS strives to provide first responders with the knowledge and tools to safely respond to the rare emergencies that occur involving rail.  Our training courses encompass topics ranging from “Railroad 101” to hazmat technician level “Responding to Tank Car Emergencies”.  Norfolk Southern also promotes the use of Apps like AskRail, 2016 ERG, FRA’s Rail Crossing Locator and others to assist first responders in an emergency involving the railroad.

Thus far in 2019, Norfolk Southern has conducted emergency response oriented classes for 5,653 first responders at 77 locations in 19 states. This training allows NS to build relationships with our nation’s first responders and partnerships with the communities we service.

Norfolk Southern Safety Train Rolls Through the Midwest

Norfolk Southern works hard to ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials by rail. The Norfolk Southern Safety Train and the Norfolk Southern Operation Awareness & Response program are integral parts of that process. Norfolk Southern’s goal is to strengthen relationships with first responders and to provide them pertinent training on hazardous materials transportation by rail.  Norfolk Southern is dedicated to providing education and resources to help raise the level of first responder emergency preparedness in the unlikely event of a rail incident.

The Midwest portion of the 2019 NS Safety Train tour included stops in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois including the cities of Cleveland, Toledo, Princeton, and Chicago. Norfolk Southern provided training to 362 first responders along the way.

The training involved a combination of classroom and hands-on training utilizing state of the art equipment conduct over three days in six sessions at each stop.  We also familiarize first responders with Apps like “Ask Rail” that adds more tools to their toolbox for emergency situations.

The hands-on portion of the training is what first responders most appreciate.  First responders get a chance to see real rail equipment up-close.  Working with the real thing leaves a lasting impression.  First responders learn the workings of a locomotive by climbing on and through a working locomotive.  They learn tank car recognition and fittings with actual tank cars. The best part of each training class is when our state of the art flat cars are used to learn  trouble shooting and mitigation of leaks. 

The Safety Train is a unique tool that allows first responders to practice responding to HazMat accidents involving rail equipment. 

OAR Model Train Donation

In July 2019, NS received a custom made model railroad display of the entire NS OAR Train.  The model was donated by Mr. Larry Kemp while attending the OAR training program with NS and Pan Am Railways in Mechanicville, NY.  The NS Safety Train model recently joined the traditional holiday train display in the lobby of the Atlanta Goode Building, which serves as the Operating Headquarters for NS.  Thank you Mr. Kemp for your kind gift!

2019 NS Railroad Emergency Response
Planning Guide

Norfolk Southern's Hazardous Materials group publishes and frequently revises a Railroad Emergency Response Planning Guide.  This Planning Guide is widely distributed to the emergency responder community during training events and is available on the OAR website. 

This Emergency Response Planning Guide can be used as an instructional tool and a reference guide to planning for and responding to emergency incidents on the railroad.  The living document has information on prevention, preparedness, and response procedures related to railroad incidents.  Additional information includes useful reference materials on rail car types, railroad hazardous material shipping papers, locomotive response, and website tool boxes.  

TRANSCAER® Seconds Count Video Series

TRANSCAER® has just released the “Seconds Count Video Series” -
NS HazMat staff helped with the production of several of the videos.  There is a lot of good information available here, so take a few minutes to check them out, because “seconds count.”

  1. What Happens When a Call Comes Into CHEMTREC®?
  2. Interview with John Modine, CHEMTREC®
  3. Interview with Tonya Ngotel, Nebraska State Coordinator
  4. Interview with Keith Silverman, Ashland, NTTG Chairman
  5. Interview with Frank Reiner, The Chlorine Institute
  6. Interview with Glen Rudner, Railroads
  7. Interview with Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association
  8. Interview with Michael Cleveland, BNSF Railway
  9. Interview with David Binder, Tanner Industries, Inc., Vice Chairman
  10. How to Read Placards
  11. Contacts and APPS for the Emergency Responder
  12. The Basics of LNG
  13. What is IDLH?
  14. What is the ERG?
  15. An Overview of Chlorine Container Auto-Refrigeration
  16. In 10 Seconds How Can You Tell if a Tank Car is Fully Loaded?
  17. Ethanol-TankCar Walkaround
  18. ChlorineTankCar Walkaround
  19. AA-TankTruck Walkaround
  20. AA-TankCar Walkaround
  21. AA-Nurse Tank Walkaround
  22. An Overview of Properties and Use of LNG
  23. What are the Emergency Response Kits for Chlorine Emergency Response?
  24. HazMat Incident: What are the First Things I Do?
  25. DOT111-117 Comparison
  26. An Overview of Double Shelf Couplers
  27. Ask Rail 
  28. What Are The Levels of PPE?


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