When emergencies happen that involve a train, first responders and the railroad companies partner together to share information and develop a plan.

This year Norfolk Southern launched a new hazmat safety train, it's part of an effort to educate first responders on railroad operations.

When a train carrying hazardous materials derails it can pose a risk to the community and for those responding to an accident, knowing what to do can be critical.   

"The tanks don't cross reference, the tight fittings they run across, just the sheer volume of products we haul makes rail unique," Robert Wood with Norfolk Southern explained.

Those are just some of the challenges local responders have to understand. It’s why Tuesday, Norfolk Southern’s "mobile classroom" made a stop in Chattanooga.
"It gives a first responder the opportunity to lay their hands on equipment not really they have no other way of doing unless it's an emergency," Wood said.

It’s rare for local responders to work a train accident. Norfolk Southern says 99% of all hazardous materials make it to their destination without accident.

It’s why Chattanooga Fire Captain Chris Cordes said these trainings classses are vital.

"When you come to a derailment it's obviously not sitting on the tracks nice and neat like this. So you have to know what you're looking at to identify and this really helps you to get a grasp of what you're gonna be faced with,” Cordes said.

The Federal Railroad Administration said transporting hazardous materials by train is the safest way to move them from one location to another.

That’s why thousands of first responders across the country are taking advantage of this type of training.

"This is training they can’t get spur of the moment. This is something they need before an accident actually happens, the type stuff they can get recognition wise is just something you can't do on the scene of an emergency it's just not the way to go about it,” Wood said.

The hazmat safety train will stop in 18 cities around the country and will be in Chattanooga through Thursday for first responders before it heads to Slidell, Louisiana and Columbia, South Carolina.