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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR RAILHAZMAT PLACARDS

04/11/2005

Speaking at the National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner last night, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recommended continuation of the placard system for hazardous materials transported by rail.  The placards are designed to ensure the safety of citizens and first responders and the decision came after the completion of a comprehensive study that included input from first responders, rail operators and other key stakeholders.

"I'm pleased to announce that the Department of Homeland Security has completed a review of alternate technologies to the current Department of Transportation placard system,? said Secretary Chertoff.  ?Based on that study and the input of the first responder community, we are recommending that the Department of Transportation maintain the placard system. This is a common sense approach to risk management.?

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, concerns were raised that placards may unduly draw attention to the transport of hazardous materials on rail cars.  In 2002, the Department of Transportation conducted studies and, last year, DHS? Transportation Security Administration commissioned an independent survey to examine available technological alternatives to the current placard system.  

Some results of the study include:

Information obtained from placards is essential for first responders to make quick decisions about the material involved in an incident and the appropriate response procedures required.

  • Placards have alternate uses for rail operators, the chemical industry and first responder community.  Any replacement system would have to address the role placards currently play in assisting the flow of commerce.
  • Based on assessing nine alternative technologies, data from the study found that no existing technology adequately addressed the safety needs of the first responder community.

DHS has taken significant steps to enhance security for the shipment of hazardous materials and our nation?s rail and mass transit systems.  DHS has provided $150 million in grants to rail and transit operators, created a joint task force with the Department of Transportation to study issues regarding shipment tracking and the hardening of rail cars and conducted risk assessments of rail security in high-threat urban areas.

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