Working with First Responders

Prevention, Preparedness, Response, Recovery

Shipping crude by rail is the safest mode of land transportation. Railroads deliver crude oil safely 99.999 percent of the time. Union Pacific is mindful of the potential consequences of an accident, which is why we have a long-standing commitment to training first responders in our communities.

Hazardous Materials Management Group

The Union Pacific Hazardous Materials Management Group (HMM) consists of experts in hazardous material transportation safety, securement and response. They are dedicated to this four-part mission:


Union Pacific's HMM team members regularly inspect tank cars moving on the UP network. In each inspection, an HMM team member examines fittings, markings safety appliances and waybills. UP's HMM managers perform thousands of inspections annually.

In addition, Union Pacific managers, outside contractors, customers and regulators work together to inspect a large number of tank cars in a defined geographic area. High volume crude oil locations are chose for tank car inspection blitz programs, with roughly 10 blitzes performed annually across the UP network.

HMM is responsible for training employees about hazardous materials safety. U.S. Department of Transportation-defined "hazmat employees" are required to be trained in the safe handling of hazardous materials. Train crews are required to carry a copy of Instructions for Handling Hazardous Materials, provided by HMM, while operating a train carrying hazmat.


Preparation is critical to an appropriate incident response. HMM develops the Union Pacific Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Plan (HMERP), a performance based plan that provides guidance about reporting a release as well as a list of training requirements for those responding to an incident. Each of the 22 operating divisions at Union Pacific undergoes an annual unannounced drill to ensure all aspects of the HMERP are in place and being followed by Union Pacific employees. The requirements, including drills and exercises, for specific plans for large oil storage tanks are managed by HMM.

Providing no-cost training to public responders is Union Pacific's most substantial preparedness effort. Having cataloged every fire department that may respond to an incident along the Union Pacific network, HMM team members reach out to fire departments on an annual basis to offer training or information to assist fire departments in their preparation for a potential incident. Training consists of classroom and hands-on activities using a specially-designed training trailer or training tank car. Trainees learn how to contact the railroad during an emergency, how to read shipping documentation, derailment safety considerations and what assets the railroad can provide in the event of an incident. HMM performs large scale training events in collaboration with Union Pacific's partners in TRANSCAER (Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response).


The response process used by HMM is designed to be easily incorporated into public response incident command structure. This process requires analyzing the problem, planning the response, implementing the plan, and evaluating and adjusting the response as necessary. Union Pacific's Response Management Communication Center (RMCC) is an around the clock security response center where critical call dispatchers manage calls from the public, law enforcement and others who are reporting emergencies and other incidents on Union Pacific's 32,000-mile network. RMCC follows all regulations regarding notification of local, state and federal agencies in the event of an accident and works closely with first responders throughout an incident.

Union Pacific has approximately 30 highly trained hazardous materials responders. We rely on a network of private response contractors who are carefully vetted and audited on an annual basis to ensure a constant state of readiness. Most of these contractors are qualified with fire fighting or United States Coast Guard Oil Spill Recovery Organization (OSRO) certifications. OSRO-certified contractors have demonstrated expertise and equipment to handle oil spills on land and water. Contractors have access to the equipment (boats, boom, skimmers, vacuum trucks, storage tanks, heavy equipment) necessary to respond to a hazardous materials incident.

To supplement the response, HMM has air monitoring contractors who can be quickly deployed to provide real-time data to public responders. Union Pacific works closely with community leadership throughout the response process. Additionally, HMM can deploy contractors who are subject-matter experts in toxicology, industrial hygiene, medicine, nursing and environmental protection. These specialty contractors can work in the communities impacted by an incident and in concert with first responders to ensure a safe response.

HMM invested in response equipment in the form of firefighting trailers, foam caches, air monitoring equipment and specialty tools to ensure resources are readily available.


Once an incident has been stabilized, recovery begins. If a tank car has been damaged and cannot travel safely on the railroad, the contents must be transferred to an undamaged car. Union Pacific is the only railroad that owns and operates all of the equipment necessary to transfer any liquid or compressed gas from one tank car to another. Once the tank car is liquid free,

HMM will clean and purge the damaged car to ensure it can be safely repaired or dismantled.

Once all hazardous materials have been removed from the incident site, HMM will transition the project to the Union Pacific Site Remediation Group for remediation and closure with regulatory agencies.

The final aspects of recovery include a debriefing with the public responders and an internal post-incident analysis. These activities are an invaluable means of improving the group's overall capability to respond to a hazmat-related incident.

Hazmat Response Resources

Union Pacific developed a reserve of materials along our route for deployment in the event of a hazardous materials incident. Resources include more than 450,000 feet of boom, which floats in the water to absorb oil and other hydrocarbons, transfer trucks, liquid-only transfer trailers, fire trailers and foam caches.

We also employ approximately 30 highly-trained hazardous materials responders ready to move in the case of a hazardous materials incident. They are supported by a network of private response contractors who are highly qualified and often have fire-fighting or United States Coast Guard Oil Spill Recovery Organization certifications.

We maintain a 24-hour emergency hotline (1-888-UPRR-COP) so that communities can quickly communicate with us in the event of a derailment or hazardous materials release.

  • AskRail - Union Pacific is introducing first responders on its rail network to AskRail, a new real-time mobile application produced by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The invitation-only application allows first responders to query the contents of a rail car with a simple rail car ID search and see whether the rail car is carrying hazardous material. Responders can also find emergency contact information, and a list of the 125 hazardous materials most commonly shipped by rail.
  • UP Leads Industry with Transfer Trucks Acquisition

Training First Responders

Since 2005, Union Pacific has trained 51,000 local, state and federal first responders on ways to minimize the impact of a derailment in their communities.

Union Pacific partners with TRANSCAER (Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response) to coordinate drills reaching thousands of participants annually. These drills help first responders and their communities prepare for a potential incident involving hazardous materials.