Train derailments, including the recent one in the Crowsnest Pass, have turned the spotlight on rail transportation with respect to rail safety, emergency response planning and training of emergency responders.
Two officers of from our Crowsnest Pass Fire Rescue Department have recently returned from a course hosted at the Security and Emergency Response Center (affiliated with the Amercian Association of Railroads which CP Rail is a member) to better prepare our department for the future.
Deputy Chief Curtis Stevens and Captain Darryl Johnson recently returned from this three-day course in Pueblo, Colorado, which focused on dealing with crude oil transported by train.
"The name of the course was Crude by Rail," Stevens said of the course, which was paid for by CP. "It was an amazing course. CP Rail is committed to supporting the training of rural fire departments, on dealing with crude-rail derailments."
"We are very fortunate to have received the full support of CP Rail in sponsoring us to attend this course, said Johnson. "Our municipality did not have to cover any expenses directly related to the course."
Stevens said the course focused on the chemical makeup of the different kinds of crude oil and how to properly deal with them in case there is ever a rail accident here.
"H2S (hydrogen sulphide) is big risk, because there is H2S in it all the time. The course also covered the design of the tank cars so we can easily identify a crude tank car and understand the appropriate actions that need to be taken."
The practical component also dealt with Hazmat Hazardous Materials response and how to contain and respond to any leakage from tank cars.
"The course focused on the fundamentals of dealing with a crude oil tank car derailment and the initial things we can do before the CP Hazmat crew gets there."
"The course was a valuable opportunity to learn the technical and operational elements of emergency response (spills and fires) related to crude oil transport via rail," said Johnson. "Transport of crude oil by rail is nearly an everyday occurrence for us here in Crowsnest Pass. Being trained, and now able to train others in the Fire/Rescue Department, is an important part of our Municipal Emergency Response Plan."
There have been a number of derailments in the news recently, Stevens noted this could be directly related to an increase in train traffic and train size.
And as for the recent derailment here.
"It would have prepared us better to deal with that incident … completing the initial assessment, relaying appropriate information to CP Rail dispatchers as the ‘first responders’ to the accident scene, and of course setting up the scene response activities safely," said Stevens.
"Based on the training we have now received, our assessment of our response actions at the time were appropriate and were done safely. We had the right people in place and set up our scene operations effectively."