Transport Canada Launches Video: Responding to Rail-Car Incidents Involving Flammable Liquids

When a train carrying flammable liquids is involved in an incident, first responders are often the first on scene. These types of incidents are not typical for first responders. They require a unique approach. And for that reason, Transport Canada has put out a video on how to respond to rail-car incidents that involve flammable liquids. Below are the factors and steps from the video when dealing with these types of incidents.


A Rail Car is involved in an accident and a fire starts on impact.  The rail car is properly placarded with the appropriate class 3 flammable Placard. Below are the factors that can influence the fire as well as steps and tools to utilize during the incident. 


Whether it’s Gasoline, Diesel, Ethanol, Crude oil, or bitumen, knowing the properties of each is important to first responders because all can behave differently under spill and fire conditions.  This is where the importance of proper placarding will come into play as first responders can detect exactly what type of flammable substances are on the train based on the UN number.   Below are important factors of flammable substances that would help first responders determine the proper course of action:

Viscosity- Gives an indication on how fast the fire can spread.

Density- Will determine if substance will sink or float if it is near a body of water.

Flashpoint- Tells how easily the substance will further ignite.

Toxicity- How harmful substance is to our health.

Steps for First Responders:

  1. Do not Rush

This includes proper assessment from a safe distance until specialized personnel arrive on the scene. Depending on the circumstance, non-intervention may be the best course of action at this point.  It is important to analyze potential risks and hazards based on the information you have.  You can consult your ERG (Emergency Response Guide) or call Canutec to determine how far of a safe distance would be needed.

  • Secure the scene- Request a shutdown of the railway.  This can be done by calling the railway’s emergency response telephone number
  • Identify Hazards- Identify the dangerous goods that are involved and what types of potential hazards can arise by locating the appropriate placards.  Survey the area for smoke, electrical lines, vapor, leaks, and pipelines from a safe distance. All of these factors have to be taken into consideration when developing a response strategy. Using the AskRail mobile app can be a helpful tool in this case.  Using the AskRail mobile app you can simply type in the railcar number, it will tell you if dangerous goods are on the rail.
  • Get Help- Look for the ERAP (Emergency Response Assistance Plan) emergency phone number on the dangerous goods shipping document.  By calling the ERAP emergency phone number, they will connect you to the technical advisor to the company responsible for the product.  This advisor will help you with immediate technical and emergency response assistance.  Depending on the severity, a specially trained response team may be deployed with necessary equipment.
  • Respond- Once specialists are on scene, you need to work with them in a command structure and establish an appropriate action plan.  The plan often will have to be modified as conditions on the scene change.  When collaborating with the specialists, always wear the appropriate PPE for the conditions at the scene.


By studying past Incidents of derailed railcars with flammable liquids, and organizing simulations of such incidents, you can ensure your action plans are safe and effective.  In addition, make sure local emergency preparations are as up to date as possible. Using the tools and resources available to you such as the Emergency Response Guidebook, The AskRail mobile app, and Canutec can be of great assistance as well. For more information feel free to click on the link below to watch the video.
Michael Zendano

Michael Zendano

Michael Zendano started with ICC Compliance Center back in 2016 with several years in the packaging field as a Quality Control Manager. In addition, he has 8 years experience in teaching. Michael works at the Niagara Falls Office as the Packaging/Regulatory specialist where he manages packaging projects and procedures and is a member of the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IOPP) and The Chemical Packaging Committee (CPC) . Degrees: M.S. Science of Education.