US railroad Norfolk Southern has partnered with RapidSOS, a digital platform connecting to emergency services first responders, on a rail safety solution that will increase the availability of critical information for first responders in significant railroad incidents. 

The new solution is free to public agencies in the US and means they will be better prepared to respond to rail incidents involving hazardous materials, with access to information about the cargo onboard. 

John Fleps, Norfolk Southern’s vice president of safety, said: “Through our partnership with RapidSOS, 911 call centres and first responder agencies throughout our 22-state network will have faster access to the information they need to safeguard their response, save lives, and protect the communities in which we operate.”

The railroad’s partnership comes as it hopes to improve its image on safety after the catastrophic derailment incident in East Palestine, Ohio, which saw toxic vinyl chloride from a Norfolk Southern train released into the surrounding area and led to the evacuation of the town’s residents. 

Norfolk Southern subsequently saw a probe by the National Transportation Safety Board into its safety measures, faced a lawsuit from the State of Ohio, and is currently facing a takeover battle with investment group Ancora Holdings, which has cited the derailment as a reason for change. 

The new solution with RapidSOS will see the company initiate a digital emergency alert after a rail incident to transmit critical information about the event, including its location, materials that might involved, and advice on safe handling to first responders. 

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Karin Marquez, chief public safety brand officer at RapidSOS, said: “Our partnership with Norfolk Southern will provide first responder agencies with contextual data and information to respond in the rare event of a train emergency. We are thrilled to work with Norfolk Southern to support our heroes in public safety to keep communities prepared and safe.”