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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

NS Safety Train Educated Thousands About Hazmat Response in 2017

Norfolk Southern Railway trained 3,241 first responders this year on the company's hazmat safety train, a rolling learning lab that helps communities prepare for and safely respond to potential rail incidents.

The safety train visited 23 communities across 14 states during its 2017 tour, providing free training to firefighters, law enforcement, emergency management personnel and other first responders, according to an NS press release.

At the train's final stop this year, which was in Greensboro, North Carolina, firefighters participated in advanced tank-car training on possible incidents involving hazardous materials.

"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."

Rolled out in 2016, the safety train is part of NS' "Operation Awareness and Response" program to connect first responders to training resources. Included in the training is use of AskRail™, a mobile application for first responders that provides real-time data about the materials rail cars are transporting.

The Safety Train Schedule - 2018


Hattiesburg, MS                   April 3-5
Meridian, MS                        April 10-12
Chattanooga, TN                 April 17-19
Danville, KY                         May 1-3
Ft. Wayne, IN                       May 15-17
Bellevue, OH                       May 22-24
Kenova, WV                         May 30 – June 1
Baltimore, MD                     June 6-8
Chambersburg, PA             June 12-14
Charlotte, NC                      June 18-20
Spencer, NC                        June 23
Knoxville, NC                      July 10-12
Mt. Vernon, IL                      July 17-19
St. Louis, MO                      July 24-26
Moberly, MO                        August 7-9
Decatur, IL                           August 14-16
Greensburg, PA                  August 28-30
Harrisonburg, VA                September 5-7
Norfolk, VA                          September 10-14
Columbia, SC                      September 25-27
Valdosta, GA                       October 9-11
Columbus, GA                    October 16-18
McIntosh, AL                       October 23-25


NS's Williams Wins AAR Lifetime Achievement Award for Hazmat Safety

Norfolk Southern’s Paul Williams has received the Association of American Railroad’s Holden-Proefrock Award for his significant contributions and career achievements to ensure the safe transport of hazardous materials by rail. 

Williams, regional manager hazardous materials in Atlanta, was presented the award today in Dallas, Texas, during a meeting of the AAR Tank Car Committee. Williams is a former chairman of the committee and currently serves as NS’ representative.

“Paul’s leadership and focus on safety exemplify Norfolk Southern’s steadfast commitment to safe rail operations in the communities we serve,” said David Schoendorfer, NS system manager hazardous materials. “He has made significant and lasting contributions through his efforts to develop training programs for employees and to build positive relationships with first responders across our network.”

The AAR award recognizes an individual’s lifetime contribution to the field of hazardous materials safety by rail. The award is named for Roy Holden and Art Proefrock, pioneers in hazardous materials transportation and emergency response. Williams is the 20th recipient of the award. Previous NS winners include Tim Mannas, 2003, Tom Davis, 2008, and Mike Stiner, 2012.

Williams, who joined NS in 2003, has worked in the railroad hazardous materials field for over 34 years.  His current responsibilities include providing emergency response, regulatory support, DOT compliance audits, and managing derailments and product releases. His primary territory is Virginia and West Virginia, but he has supervisory responsibility for Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In addition, he is on call to respond to incidents across NS’ 22-state network.

In addition to his work with the AAR Tank Car Committee, Williams is a past chairman of the American Chemistry Council’s TRANSCAER National Steering Committee and is a past president of the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council.

Williams is an active participant in NS’ Operation Awareness and Response community outreach program. He played a key role in designing and assisting with the development of NS’ safety train, which went into service in 2016. In addition, he has developed many internal training programs to ensure hazmat employee compliance. He also is active in the AskRail Task Force, providing valuable input in the development of the AskRail first responder app that now has nearly 20,000 users.

Prior to joining NS, Williams held positions with the AAR, the Bureau of Explosives in Washington, and the Transportation Technology Center’s Security Emergency Response Training Center in Pueblo, Colo.


NC Association of Hazardous Materials Responders, Hazmat Challenge

The annual North Carolina Association of Hazardous Materials Responders, Hazmat Challenge was held July 29th, 2017 at the Fire Rescue International (FRI) Conference in Charlotte, NC.  This year, Norfolk Southern sponsored the hands-on portion by creating a derailment scenario where teams would mitigate leaks from several rail hazmat cars.  The leaks included a vapor release from a sulfur dioxide car, liquid leak from a ruptured PRD disk on a hydrogen peroxide car, and a blown out gasket from a PRD on a Class 9 hazmat car.

Justin Hahn, Norfolk Southern Hazardous Materials Compliance Officer for the Carolinas, was the lead judge for this TRANSCAER® event. The challenge also included a classroom portion where teams were required to strategically analyze and answer specific questions pertaining to research, monitoring, and general hazmat emergency response terminology.  North Carolina Hazardous Materials Regional Response Team 1, stationed at Williamston Fire Department brought home the gold. 

Abby Moore, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the NCAHMR and RRT coordinator for Asheville Fire Department says, ““This was the largest participation to-date for the HazMat Challenge. Being able to jointly train with a rail scenario was a true benefit to all.”

Norfolk Southern Sponsors Locomotive Rescue and Tank Car Specialist Training in Conjunction with the NS Safety Train, in Asheville, NC

The NS Safety Train arrived in Asheville the week of August 6th, 2017 to train first responders about railroad emergencies.  In addition to the standard training conducted during the safety train visits on Tuesday through Thursday, two additional sessions were offered.

This included a training session based on rescuing personnel from a locomotive.  Locomotive cabs are very small and the doors to enter and exit a locomotive are much narrower than a regular door.  This presents a more challenging extrication process for first responders.  Additionally, NC HazMat Team 6 participated in a tank car specialist review.  During this training, teams practiced applying different capping kits to actively leaking rail heads, rebuilding pressure relief devices and how to mitigate other tank car leaks.

Legacy DOT-111 Tank Cars Phasing Out of Petroleum Crude Oil Service

Effective January 1, 2018, the legacy DOT-111 non-jacketed cars will no longer be allowed for petroleum crude oil service; and effective March 1, 2018 the legacy DOT jacketed cars will not be allowed for this service either.  Currently the majority of petroleum crude oil moves in CPC-1232 cars.  These cars have half height headshields, protective housings, and thicker steel than the legacy DOT-111 cars; however, in time these also will be phased out of petroleum crude oil service and replaced by DOT-117 tank cars.  The effective date for this transition is April 1, 2020 for non-jacketed CPC-1232 cars and May 1, 2025 for jacketed CPC-1232 cars.  As these cars are replaced, the overall safety of the flammable liquid tank car fleet will be significantly improved.  Cars in ethanol service and other flammable liquid commodities will also eventually move in the improved DOT 117 tank cars such as the one pictured above.  The new cars are essentially equivalent to DOT-112 pressure cars, except they will still have bottom outlet valves.

Connecting with Public Partners: Alabama and Kentucky Spotlight 

As the OAR Safety train has been making its way throughout the Norfolk Southern network, NS has embraced the opportunity to educate local public partners on how we cooperate with first responders to prevent hazmat accidents. At many train stops along the safety train's route, Norfolk Southern has invited local and state government officials to tour the locomotive and learn more about our safety operations within each state.  

When the safety train stopped in Louisville, Kentucky on July 26th, members of the Kentucky General Assembly attended a  special presentation aboard the Norfolk Southern safety train. Following a reception, our state relations representative Derek Sublette spoke with visitors about Norfolk Southern’s commitment to safety and to the communities that reside on its freight rail network. Members also had the opportunity to tour the safety train and discuss the first responder training process that occurs there. The visit was an excellent opportunity for our public partners to learn more about how important rail and rail safety is to our communities.  

Then, on September 14th, the OAR Safety Train stopped in Huntsville, Alabama where Norfolk Southern had the opportunity to host local public officials.  About 35 guests attended, including state legislators, representatives from local mayors' offices, Huntsville City councilmen, Madison County Commissioners, and members of the Huntsville-Madison County Railroad Board. After a lunch, guests enjoyed a Railroad 101 presentation given by our state government relations representative Elizabeth Lawlor and had an opportunity to tour the locomotive.

Norfolk Southern embraces any opportunity to strengthen relationships with local leaders. Our hope is that special events like these will make our communities safer and better informed. 

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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