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Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Bill to provide first responders with better training and communications resources passes House

The U.S. House of Representatives recently unanimously passed a bipartisan bill aimed at supporting first responders by making sure they have the resources they need to handle hazardous events, including crude oil train derailments.

The Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act would establish a public-private council that combines emergency responders, federal agencies and leading experts to review training and best practices for first responders.

The council would be co-chaired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. It would provide Congress with recommendations on how to address first responder safety needs with increased railway safety challenges.

“When disaster strikes, North Dakotans depend on their communities to pull together to subdue the flames – and as a statewide family, we know our first responders need our protection just as much as we need theirs,” said U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), who introduced the Senate version of the bill.

“Today, we’re bringing this bill one step closer to becoming law – and first responders one step closer to the resources they need to keep our communities strong and safe so they can return home to their families each night,” she said.

The passage of the bill includes minor changes from the version that was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate in May and will be sent back to the Senate for final approval before being sent to the president.

The bill was cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Angus King (I-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Joni Ernst (R-IA).