Important to include community in emergency training, says Terrace fire chief

The city and Kitsumkalum were a part of CN Rail’s train derailment seminar

With an increasing number of dangerous goods expected to come through Terrace in the coming years, CN Rail held a two-day seminar to help responders in the area prepare in case a train derailment spills a dangerous good into a local waterway.

CN Rail staff, CN contractors, Kitsumkalum, the Terrace Fire Department, plus other industry agencies and stakeholders gathered from Sept. 10 to 11 along the Skeena River to learn about on-water containment and other recovery strategies through a mock derailment scenario.

“I think knowledge is always good to have, especially at our level because both the City of Terrace and Kitsumkalum, we don’t have a lot of expertise in that field or resources to navigate this so knowing who your training partners and knowing that CN has plans and contacts to send to our area to help is good,” says Terrace Fire Department fire chief John Klie.

“Seeing everyone’s faces, talking to them, we get to know them a bit and learn to trust them if it comes to something like this.”

READ MORE: CN Rail hosts emergency response training at Skeena River in case of train derailment

With an extra 350 rail cars carrying dangerous goods expected to travel through Terrace per day in the wake of an upcoming industry boom, CN Rail put this training together following rising concerns over train disaster preparation.

Although CN has hosted similar ones before, this exercise was on a bigger scale to loop in more members in the community, Klie says.

Despite having an emergency response plan posted on the City of Terrace’s website, the city’s plan takes an “all-hazard” approach that does not detail the impacts of specific materials. This drill taught all persons involved how to handle a toxic spill in a quick, organized way.

READ MORE: Is Terrace prepared for a rail disaster?

On day one, participants spent the day in a classroom sharing knowledge and perspectives on how to approach a train derailment. Day two was on the river site to learn how to deploy booms, a temporary floating barrier used to contain an oil spill, and what to expect during a high-level emergency situation.

“The contractors on the water are all experienced people… and it’s always an eyeopener once we get on the water to see how fast the river can get,” says Klie. “They [CN Rail] are also bringing in a trailer here, the City of Terrace will store one and there’s already one stored on CN property… the trailers are filled with a pump and various other resources we can use during a spill, so they’re going to be doing another training with that as well.”

Earlier this year, SkeenaWild’s request for full information of the volume and type of dangerous goods expected to pass through Terrace was denied, with CN Rail citing security reasons in a response letter. Those details would only be accessible to qualified emergency response officials, the letter reads.

Klie says the city knows details of what these rail cars contain after they pass through Terrace. But if an emergency was to happen, only then would emergency officials access to the information right away.

“Ten years ago, you would never know what’s coming through town but now every quarter they send us a document so you see a pattern of what’s coming through… we keep track of all that so we try to gear our training and resources towards that,” he says. “CN Rail also has an app for emergency responders on the phone so that during an incident when we go, all the rail cars have numbers on them and we can type that into our app to tell us what’s on that train.”

READ MORE: Better dangerous goods response wanted

He adds a key lesson they took from the training is how to evacuate an area to keep the public safe and how to secure the derailment site. They would also contact CN Rail’s emergency technicians, one who’s located in Prince George and the other in Vancouver to help navigate the scene.

“It doesn’t happen here a lot, we’ve been lucky it hasn’t been a dangerous good, but we cannot say that there won’t ever be an accident here so they’re doing their best that if there is, there are enough resources in the community to try to deal with it,” Klie says.

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