COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Governor Mike DeWine and Norfolk Southern Corporation are taking steps to expand its Operation Awareness and Response program.

DeWine and Norfolk Southern Corporation agreed to create a first responders training center to improve and expand firefighter training to better prepare for disasters involving hazardous materials.

According to a release from the governor’s office, the mission of the safety center will be focused on providing additional free training for first responders across the region, which includes Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and will “strengthen coordination between railroads and first responders in the event of an emergency response.”

“Often first responders are volunteers, and their need to have the most up-to-date training and equipment is essential,” DeWine said.

A permanent location has yet to be decided, but temporary training classes will begin March 22 at Norfolk Southern’s Moorman Yard in Bellevue, Ohio.

The influx of recent train derailments, including several in Ohio and most recently in Dayton, has caused mounting frustration among residents, both in East Palestine and more locally, in Delaware about the cleanup effort from a derailment that occurred Jan. 25 near Curve Road.

Norfolk Southern said it is also expanding its OAR program, which travels the company’s 22-state network and trains first responders on how to respond safely to rail incidents, by connecting first responders in Norfolk Southern communities with information and training resources. First responders will be offered hands-on training in the form of the program’s safety train, which includes a dedicated locomotive, specially equipped classroom box cars, and several tank cars.

“First responders are often immediately on the scene of a rail incident, and we want to ensure they have the knowledge and tools to work safely and effectively to protect the health and safety of their fellow citizens,” said Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan H. Shaw.