CSX Rail Respond – Real Time Rail Information for Firefighters

By Charles Werner, Fire Chief Emeritus, Charlottesville, VA, EFO/CFO/FIFirE/CIPM

CSX-trainIn 2014, CSX Transportation took a bold step forward in the development of a program that provides critical rail information to emergency responders in real time. This program called CSX Rail Respond (formerly known as “CSX Operation Respond”) is now available for FREE to emergency responders in all 23 states & DC, covering 21,000 miles of track and involving 13,000 local jurisdictions, where CSX operates. The online program is a web application that can be accessed by computer, smartphone, tablets and other wireless devices regardless of their operating system.

For fire departments, CSX Rail Respond is an exceptional tool that provides the critical information that is needed for situational awareness and effective decision making during the management of a rail incident. This free site is particularly beneficial to volunteer agencies with limited budgets and resources as it provides a comprehensive suite of information sharing tools – all within the CSX Rail Respond program.

Designed specifically for first responders, CSX Rail Respond is a mobile information system that enhances response to rail related emergencies, especially hazardous material incidents. The program development involved an Advisory Council which consisted of the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, and CHEMTREC. The program provides two levels of user interface (advanced and basic) and is now being used by over 6,000 emergency first responders.

CSX-Rail-Respond-Car-ResultsThe advanced access provides more in-depth information to chief/incident command level roles with real time information on rail car content and train list search results:

  • Entire Train Consist
  • Car Sequence Order
  • Load/Empty Status
  • Railcar ID Number
  • Color Coded HazMat ID
  • Hazard Classification

The basic access provides information to single rail car content but excludes the full train list. A basic single car search provides the following information:

  • Placard recognition
  • Hazard Class
  • DOT Car Type
  • Load Status
  • Volume
  • UN ID – PIH/TIH identifier
  • Proper Shipping Name
  • Packing Group
  • Train position

CSX-Rail-Respond-UN-ID-SearchIn addition to the rail car content, a suite of other useful information is provided in the program, including:

  • Railroad emergency contact information
  • Locomotive information
  • HazMat UN number search
  • National Emergency Response Guidebook
  • Chemical databases
  • List of most common hazardous materials transported by CSX
  • CSX unit train emergency response guide

Recent enhancements include:

  • Isolation Zone: a tool to recommend the appropriate isolation zone in an emergency, based on factors including commodity type and spill size, with contact information for affected sensitive receptors and businesses
  • The ability to request access to CSX Rail Respond directly from the homepage
  • Locomotive data, including fuel status and hazard information
  • Emergency Response Information
  • Protective Action Distances
  • Placard Search Database
  • Water Reactive List
  • Additional security
  • Weather data to help you anticipate events that would impact your response decisions
  • An environmental tool to identify vulnerable water sources and flowlines

CSX Rail Respond also builds upon other tools provided by CSX to emergency response agencies for providing information about the commodities transported through states and local communities by CSX:

  • CSX SecureNOW – map-based geographical train and rail car monitoring tool allowing homeland security and emergency management centers to track CSX trains in real-time
    * In place in 20 of the 23 states where CSX operates
    * U.S.Dept. of Transportation , Transportation Security Administration and CHEMTREC
  • CSX HazMat Density Reports – for over 20 years CSX has been providing detailed hazmat density reports to local community emergency response and planning officials
  • CSX HazMat Training Resources– which includes computer-based training, self-study training, reference guides, and face-to-face training

As to security, each responder must be identified and submitted by the authorizing emergency responder agency/organization. Other security access requirements inherent to the system are:

  • Each user is assigned a login and will have an assigned password
  • All users are vetted through face to face training or phone verification
  • Access request are verified semiannually through email
  • Provides on demand reporting users date-time stamp of system access and searches conducted
    * All searches archived in system history
  • Controls in place to automatically notify CSX of system abuse (e.g. a given number of searches within a specified period of time)
  • System access and search reports generated and monitored daily
  • Access controlled by CSX Infrastructure Protection
  • Advanced level access granted to Chiefs/ Directors and above. Chiefs can request advanced level access for their team in writing

For fire departments or other emergency organizations that wish to access the CSX Rail Respond Program, follow the below procedures to request access:

  • Type your email address in the email field
  • Click inside the “I Agree to Confidentiality Agreement” check box
  • Click the “Request New Account” button
  • Fill in required fields and click Submit


The CSX Rail Respond is a paradigm shift from the way that emergency responders previously received critical rail car information during emergencies and is based on trust and empowerment. Additionally, CSX Transportation is committed to continually reviewing the program and making enhancements as recommended through direct input from first responders.

For more information or to request a training event for your staff, contact CSX via email at csxrailrespond@csx.com.