TRANSCAER® Training Helps Departments Prepare for HazMat Transportation Incidents

By Renee Loh, North Dakota Director of the NVFC

The North Dakota Firefighter’s Association (NDFA) does not make the front cover of a magazine very often; however, the TRANSCAER® Today Winter 2013 issue adorned a Grand Forks firefighter helmet. The caption on the cover was: North Dakota’s “Warm” Reception for TRANSCAER® Training Tour. North Dakota had successfully secured training for an eight-stop Anhydrous Ammonia Training Tour.

There were 469 participants in the Anhydrous Ammonia training. Minot, ND, had experienced a train derailment in January 2002 that involved 31 freight cars, including 15 with anhydrous ammonia, and this tour was an important training reminder for the first responders.  

TRANSCAER, or Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response, is a national outreach effort that focuses on assisting communities to prepare for and respond to possible hazardous materials transportation incidents. The group is made up of volunteer representatives from the chemical manufacturing, transportation, distributor, and response industries, as well as the government. One critical component of TRANSCAER is the training it provides to first responders.

To expand upon the training in North Dakota, a TRANSCAER® Petroleum Crude Oil Training Tour was held in July 2014, with stops in six North Dakota locations. Statewide, 414 participants completed the training.

TRANSCAER® offers a tremendous training opportunity for fire departments. In addition to firefighters and EMS personnel, the NDFA training included law enforcement, emergency managers, and other city officials and corporate entities, such as hospital personnel, that would be involved if an incident occurred. POST credit was available to help meet continuing education requirements. The feedback from all of these first responders was excellent. This training was successful, in so many ways, because it allows many facets of responders to work together and network.

Some of the participants traveled for over an hour to get to the training locations. At one of the locations, an additional day was added to the schedule because over 100 participants wanted to attend and that would have been too many for one class.

The importance of this training cannot be underestimated, especially considering that rail travels through most North Dakota communities. Another important factor was that this training united representatives and instructors from BNSF Railway, a major U.S. rail service, with short line rail representatives. The firefighters had the opportunity to fine-tune the protocols that need to be followed for the most effective responses.

The Petroleum Crude Oil training was vital for the North Dakota firefighters. With over 1 million gallons of oil pumped and transported daily, the firefighters have a large role to play in protecting the state, especially after the eight tanker car fire that occurred in Casselton, ND, in December of 2013. There have been several other train derailments; however, with this TRANSCAER® training, the firefighters feel more confident. The training provided firefighters the opportunity to network with other qualified, trained firefighters, and they now understand the proper equipment that is needed for this type of fire hazard incident. The benefit of this training to the fire departments is outstanding!

The beauty of the two TRANSCAER® training tours is that each geographical area of the state was covered, allowing all of the firefighters in the state to attend both of these vital trainings. The individuals from TRANSCAER® are an incredible group of professionals that focus on the specific characteristics, response actions, safety, and emergency response that will be required. The hands-on instruction in a BNSF locomotive and its HazMat training car gave the firefighters an actual view of the steps that are needed to achieve a favorable outcome for the first responders and the citizens that they protect. In addition, the firefighters received training materials, DVDs with pertinent information, and most importantly, national telephone numbers that will connect the first responders to CHEMTREC for the timely and pertinent information that will be required during an incident. NDFA was grateful and appreciative for this golden training opportunity.

To learn more about TRANSCAER and access online training, visit To find out how to set up a training tour in your state, contact your State Coordinator.

Renee Loh is the Executive Director of the North Dakota Firefighter’s Association and the North Dakota Director for the National Volunteer Fire Council.