Your 17 Point Checklist for Passenger Train Emergency Planning

An overview of the 3 types of passenger trains, common emergency problems, and a useful 17 Point Pre-Planning Rail Response Checklist.

During the early twentieth century, trains were the primary means of long distance passenger transportation. Although planes and cars have replaced trains for the top means of distant commuting, passenger trains are still a popular way to travel. There are three basic rail passenger modes: InterCity Trains, Commuter Trains, and Tourist Trains. In this article we will go over each of the passenger train types and how to include trains in your Response Plan.

As an Emergency Responder, it is important to plan for railroad disasters, as well as understanding how passenger train emergencies differ from freight train emergencies. (In previous articles, we discussed integrating freight trains into your planning.) During a rail accident, pinpointing the location is often one of the biggest obstacles. When time is of the essence, having the right plan and resources are essential.

Below is our 17 Point Pre-Planning Rail Response Checklist:

17 Point Pre-Planning Rail Response Checklist

PROBLEM: Let’s start by addressing the common problems Emergency Responders face during a train wreck:

  • Most first responders will have minimal experience or training for this type of event.

  • The size and durability of rail equipment will likely overwhelm personnel.

  • The equipment to move heavy rail cars is not found in many locations.

  • Many events become multijurisdictional.

When planning for possible passenger rail incidents, the basic challenges for each are nearly the same:

  • Accurately locating the event in a timely manner

  • Accessibility of the location (rural, highly populated, rough terrain, ect.)

  • Obtainability initial rescue training and equipment

  • Availability of medical treatment and distance to medical facilities

  • Difficulty in transporting large numbers of victims


Passenger Train Wreck - Commuter Rail

1. Intercity Trains: Express passenger transportation covering longer distances than commuter trains. Amtrak is the main intercity passenger service, usually running over freight rail lines. It is operated by the US Government.

Resources available: Amtrak provides significant free training, usually near larger population centers. Contact Amtrak (use their internet site or call) and ask for a schedule of training dates & locations. Voicing an interest in training may get you on the list.

2. Commuter Rail: Passenger rail service usually serving or connecting major population centers. They are similar in operation to Amtrak but operate shorter routes with larger passenger counts. Since they are usually near major population centers, often there is less difficulty locating and responding, plus availability of rescue services is better. However, accessibility remains a serious problem that is best addressed by pre-planning. Inner-city rail corridors are frequently visible, but access to a concrete canyon is difficult.

Passenger Train Wreck - Intercity Rail

3. Tourist Rail: Passenger rail that takes a unique line of travel in scenic areas. Because of their remote locations, accessibility can be a real challenge. They are frequently found operating in difficult to access areas. Rail mapping and pre-planning is an important mitigating factor.

HAVE A LOCAL RAILROAD? Do you have a plan in place for responding to a major passenger rail incident? Clear Track Ahead is the solution.

Clear Track Ahead is a mapping technology company that teams up with Emergency Managers to ensure that they have the GPS maps needed for their 911 Centers to locate the specific location of a rail emergency. For additional information on how to incorporate railroads into your county’s EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLAN, contact Clear Track Ahead at (910) 790-3511 or visit our website Let us give you a custom quote on this technology that can help save lives.

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