Reference Materials for First Responders to Crude Oil Transportation Incidents Now Available

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration and the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy, have been working to develop incident management “best practices” reference materials for emergency responders to prepare them to safely and effectively respond to crude oil transportation incidents. By leveraging the knowledge, expertise, resources, and information available from public and private sector response agencies, emergency responders can implement a coordinated and effective response operation to safely and effectively mitigate the consequences of an incident.

In June 2014, a meeting of hazardous materials response subject matter experts from public safety, railroads, government, and industry was convened to develop a “best practices” reference document. The goal of this effort was to develop a document that would help first responders to:

  • Develop pre-incident planning exercises, response plans, and conduct emergency preparedness and readiness activities
  • Collect and analyze information to determine the scope of the problem such as the hazardous nature of the product(s) involved, resource requirements, recommended protective actions, selection of appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment, and tactical considerations
  • Plan an initial response within the existing capabilities and competencies of available resources consistent with the local emergency response plan and the organization’s standard operating procedures to favorably influence the outcome of an incident
  • Evaluate the progress of the actions taken to ensure that the response objectives are being met safely, effectively, and efficiently
  • Establish the role of incident management teams for “campaign” incidents

The result of this effort is the Commodity Preparedness and Incident Management Reference Sheet. This document contains incident management best practices for crude oil rail transportation emergency response operations that include a risk-based hazardous materials emergency response operational framework. The framework provides first responders with key planning, preparedness, and response principles to successfully manage a crude oil rail transportation incident. The document also assists fire and emergency services personnel in decision-making and developing an appropriate response strategy to an incident (i.e., defensive, offensive, non-intervention).

This document and other emergency response reference materials available to first responders from PHMSA can be accessed at