Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff announced Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security has recommended continuation of the placard system for hazardous materials transported by rail.
Use of the placards had been questioned on the premise that they might attract the attention of terrorists. However, the placards are designed to ensure the safety of citizens and first responders. The DHS decision came after the completion of a comprehensive study that included input from first responders, rail operators and other key stakeholders.
Speaking at the National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner in Washington, DC, Thursday night, Secretary Chertoff said, "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. ? 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."
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.
DHS determined from its survey that 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. Of the nine alternative technologies studied, none was able to address the safety needs of the first responder community.
The survey also found that 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.