EAST POINT, Ga. — Norfolk Southern's Operation Awareness and Response program hosted Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and several local emergency responder agencies in East Point for a safety training Tuesday.
"It's really important to us that we engage with our first responders and ensure that they have the resources and the tools and the training they need to respond safely in the unlikely event of a rail accident," said Norfolk Southern's CEO Alan Shaw.
The transport company's safety training comes months after they were under fire after several trains derailed in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio — with the most scrutinized 50-car derailment in East Palestine causing a major toxic chemical spill and a large fire.
Shaw addressed the derailments at Tuesday's training.
"I'll be in East Palestine later this week. I'll be there this weekend. I was there in the immediate aftermath of the derailment. I've been there almost every week since," Shaw said.
Shaw adds that Norfolk Southern has committed $35 million to helping communities recover.
"It's about prevention. It's about mitigation and it's about response. Last year, we had the lowest number of derailments on Norfolk Southern in the last two decades. We can get better. The train with the first responders is all about the response," said Shaw.
The CEO added that he has a team in East Palestine assisting families, businesses, and communities with the aftermath.
Officials with the company said the training was implemented to strengthen the response to an accident on the railroad for first responders.
"I think most people in the state know that just by our actions and how much we appreciate what you're doing every day and we know how important training is not only for railroads but also for first responder public safety," Kemp said.
The Georgia governor attended the training as part of his visits during National Safety Month.
He and his wife Marty attended a school resource officer training in Athens Monday.
"We're the ones getting those calls when something happens too. And we want to be able to respond and work together and put life safety first and then deal with the aftermath," the Georgia governor added.
The free training focused on topics such as safety around the railroad, identifying tank cars, locomotive emergencies, response tactics, and more.
Norfolk Southern hosts safety training for local emergency responders
East Point Fire Lt. Scott Zoebisch has been in the department for 18 years. He said the last time his team responded to a rail accident was several years ago.
Lt. Zoebisch said the training was informative and is happy to have more people to contact if an emergency happens.
"We work in the 'what if' industry. You never know what we're going to face every day. So, this information is very informative— just knowing the breakpoints," said Lt. Zoebisch.
Officials said Norfolk Southern's OAR program travels through 22 states to provide free training to first responders.
Authorities added that classes are held on one of the company's safety trains equipped with boxcar classrooms, tank cars, and more. There will be 15 trainings this year.