Crude Oil

Resources for First Responders


Incident Response Guidance:
Response procedures for a crude oil incident include those typical for most any ignitable liquid and begin with steps common to any hazardous materials incident. 

An effective response to any hazardous materials incident requires recognition of the presence of a hazardous material and proper identification of the product(s) involved.  The presence of a hazardous material may be indicated by the presence of vehicles or containers typically used to transport or store hazardous materials, or may be signaled by the presence of markings, labels or placards on the vehicle or container.   In the case of crude oil being transported by rail through New York State, the involvement of a unit train (a train used to carry a single commodity) composed of 100 or more rail tank cars is an important, and typically readily apparent, indicator that an ignitable liquid such as crude oil or ethanol may be involved.  There is also potential for large scale crude oil incidents in the State to involve Major Oil Storage Facilities (MOSF), or tank farms, where crude oil may be transferred from rail cars into tanks and from tanks into barges if being transported by water. Information indicating the presence of hazardous materials may be provided in the initial report of an incident to a dispatch center and transmitted to responders in the initial dispatch information.

Once the potential presence of a hazardous material has been recognized, responders must attempt to identify the product. As indicated above, the vehicle or container may indicate the presence of hazardous materials. It may also provide an indication of the type of product present. Crude oil is typically transported by pipeline or by rail in DOT 111 General Service Tank cars which can be identified or distinguished by their construction features (See the Field Guide to Tank Cars from the Association of American Railroads for additional information) and which are assembled into unit trains to transport crude oil.  In addition, placard information may identify the specific product or category: Crude oil is indicated by UN ID# 1267 displayed on a flammable liquid (Class 3) red placard. Furthermore, important information concerning the cargo on a specific train is contained in a document known as a consist. The consist identifies the cargo type and description in each railcar as well as the location of every railcar in the train. The consist is carried by the train crew in the engine, and is also available directly from the railroad operations or dispatch center responsible for the train. 

Appropriate initial emergency operations at a crude oil incident are found on Guide Page #128 of the Emergency Response Guidebook and include the following recommendations:

  • For a small leak or spill, isolate 150 feet in all directions;
  • Additionally, for a large spills, isolate downwind for 1000 feet; and
  • If the incident involves fire, isolate ½ mile in all directions.

In addition to the local fire, police and EMS agencies, notification should be made to the NYS DEC Spill Hotline at 800-457-7362, the State Watch Center (operated by the State Office of Emergency Management) at 518-292-2200, the National Response Center at 800-424-8802 and the railroad operating the train (emergency contact information is marked at every rail crossing).

Guidance Documents and Reference Materials:
State and federal agencies have several guidance documents for response to emergency incidents.
The New York State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) and its associated annexes identifies agency roles and responsibilities for hazard mitigation, response and recovery for emergencies including hazardous materials releases.
Additional resources include:

OFPC Initial Strategic and Tactical Operations Worksheet
OFPC Crude Oil Foam/Water Application Rate and Supply Guidance
OFPC Foam Calculations Worksheet
Friction Loss Calculator:
DEC Spill Response Guidance Manual
DEC Spill Response Program Description
US EPA Emergency Response
Federal Region II Regional Response Team

Training Programs:

Training for emergency response to incidents involving crude oil and other ignitable liquids is available from government agencies and private industry. 

New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control
The Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) provides hazardous materials training at the New York State Academy of Fire Science and through outreach training opportunities available statewide.  Courses relevant to crude oil are noted below. Additional information about these courses and OFPC's entire training program is available here:

  • Flammable and Combustible Liquid Emergencies (16 hours)
  • Foam Trailer Training (4 hours)
  • Live Fire Class B Foam Operations (12 hours)
  • Hazardous Materials Technician (5 Modules: 92 hours total)
  • Hazardous Materials Incident Command (24 hours)

Each of the Class I Railroads operating in New York State offer training programs addressing emergency operations at a rail incident which includes training specific to the transportation of crude oil.  This training is often coordinated with the American Association of Railroads (AAR) and TRANSCAER (Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response).  Training program and contact information is available on each railroad’s website.  

CSX Transportation:

  • CSX Safety Train: Mobile classroom for first responders
  • CSX Crude by Rail information:

Canadian Pacific Rail:

Norfolk Southern:

American Association of Railroads (AAR):  
As part of the support it provides to its member railroads, the AAR owns and operates the Transportation Technology Center, which includes laboratory, testing and training facilities focused on rail operations.   Training for fire service personnel and other emergency responders is available.

Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI)

  • Training is available to first responders at no cost
  • Offerings include a “Crude by Rail” training program:  
    • Training slots are designated for each railroad, which then coordinates attendance from areas along the rail lines they operate.
    • Training slots are also available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC) (
  • Other Training courses available:
    • HAZMAT Technician for Surface Transportation (HWMDTST)
    • Leadership & Management of Surface Transportation Incidents (LMSTI)
    • Railroad Incident Coordination and Safety (RICS)
    • Tank Car Specialist (TCS)
    • Tank Car Specialist - Advanced (TCS-A)
    • Tactical HAZMAT Operations in Surface Transportation (THMOST)

TRANSCAER (Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response) is a voluntary effort on the part of its member organizations, which include manufacturers, distributors, transporters, emergency response industries and U.S. government agencies, to assist with preparing for and responding to incidents involving the transportation of hazardous materials.  Information about training programs, planning assistance, grants and resources is available on the TRANSCAER website.

Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX):
The Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) operates the Emergency Services Training Institute (ESTI) which provides fire service and emergency response training in multiple areas including hazardous materials, foam operations and industrial firefighting. Information on training courses, cost and availability is available on their website. Training provided by TEEX is also available via FEMA’s NDPC program (