Department of Public Safety
Minnesota has become a major corridor for transporting oil from North Dakota and Alberta to refineries in other parts of the United States. Train derailments and pipeline spills in the US and Canada have raised concerns about public safety aspects of oil transportation. In 2014, the Minnesota Legislature passed comprehensive legislation related to rail and pipeline safety, including a requirement that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) submit a report on Minnesota's preparedness for an oil transportation incident. The reporting requirement posed this basic question: Is Minnesota ready for an oil transportation incident? The legislature sought information on the state's capacity to respond to a public safety incident, an examination of needs for local governments that might respond to an incident, and recommendations for allocation of funds or legislative changes.
DPS asked MAD to conduct research to answer the legislature's questions. MAD worked with DPS to develop a rigorous research approach that would ensure a high-quality report. MAD's study included a survey of local fire, police, sheriff, and emergency management departments, interviews with experts in the public and private sectors, interviews with elected officials, and other independent research.
MAD structured the research report to address all of the legislature's specific requirements, while also providing a context that would allow members of the public to understand the findings and recommendations. MAD's report included information and findings in these areas:
- Background and context on emergency management as a discipline, risks of oil transportation and other hazards, and the 2014 legislation regarding oil transportation
- Comprehensive examination of Minnesota's preparedness and emergency response framework, including federal and state laws, responsibilities of federal, state, and local government, and the role of the private sector in hazardous materials transportation and incident response
- Analysis of existing capacity among local governments, state agencies, and private sector resources to respond to an incident involving oil transportation
- Analysis of areas for capacity development, including perspectives of state, local, and private sector experts on equipment and training needs, options for additional preparedness efforts (and potential costs), and review of changes already underway
- Development of possible program evaluation approaches to assess increasing preparedness for an oil transportation or other hazardous materials incident
MAD found that many first responders and emergency management officials were not completely confident in their communities' ability to respond to an oil transportation incident. Local government responders and public and private sector experts agreed that additional training for first responders and coordination of resources would be needed to enhance Minnesota's preparedness.
MAD worked with DPS to develop a set of recommendations and intended actions that could enhance Minnesota's preparedness. DPS submitted the report to the legislature, and DPS officials used MAD's executive summary as the basis for presentations to relevant legislative committees. The study has provided important context for the legislature's policy discussions regarding preventing and responding to oil transportation incidents. Since the study, DPS has continued to increase its training and coordination efforts, providing local emergency response officials with additional resources, forming an oil training advisory group, and strengthening interagency collaboration.
Kris Van Amber