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eLearning for First Responders

eLearning for First Responders is an interactive program that provides training and information about several scenarios that first responders encounter in incidents at railroad crossings and rail rights-of-way.

Frequently Asked Questions about Highway-Rail Intersections

Why can't a train yield to an emergency vehicle?

It takes the average freight train hauling 6,000 tons and traveling at 55 mph a mile or more - the length of 18 football fields - to stop.

What's louder: A train horn or an emergency vehicle siren?

Even if emergency sirens and air horns are deactivated as emergency vehicles approach crossings, ambient noise levels in their cab could mask the sound of an approaching train horn.

What should drivers of emergency vehicles do when approaching highway - rail intersections?

Turn off sirens, air horns and other sound-producing devices. Slow down, open the vehicle's window, and look both ways to see if a train is approaching. At crossings with obstructions or severe curves interfering with vision, stop your emergency vehicle and ask a crew member to go out and check on crossing safety.

Other resources are available from our safety partners at the Federal Railroad Administration:

  • Rail Safety for Law Enforcement - The Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) informational video for the law enforcement community, as part of its Grade Crossing Safety & Trespass Prevention program.
  • Rail Safety for Law Enforcement: Incident Investigation - An FRA informational video brings a clear understanding to law enforcement officers of the challenges associated with investigating highway-rail grade crossing collisions.
  • Rail Safety for Emergency Response Services - FRA’s informational video for emergency response services as part of its Grade Crossing Safety & Trespass Prevention program.
  • Rail Safety for Emergency Dispatchers - The FRA's informational video for emergency dispatchers, a product of the Grade Crossing Safety & Trespass Prevention program.

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Fast Facts

Who has the right of way?

A train always has the right of way. Plan routes allowing drivers and other crew members clear views down the railroad tracks in both directions.

Know where emergency numbers are located.

Know which railroad controls the tracks and have emergency numbers for them at dispatch centers. This is especially important if there is more than one railroad operating in your community.

What do you do if a train is blocking your way?

If a train is blocking an intersection you must use, contact your emergency dispatcher or the local railroad office.

Avoid parking or stopping on tracks if possible.

Don't place emergency vehicles on tracks and expect a train to be able to stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.

How do you notify trains of an emergency?

To stop a train, contact the railroad. Use all available reference points, checking signal housing for DOT crossing number, to give exact locations. If known, supply railroad mile posts, road name, crossroads and town.

Rail Safety for Fire Response Teams

When fighting long-term brush or structure fires, contact the railroad to obtain clearance to move ballast stones and feed hoses under the tracks. Doing so allows both safe, effective fire fighting and train passage.