PCC: “Exercise, exercise, exercise. This is a mock-call for the Alyth Yard exercise.”
911: “Understood, we will treat this as a real 911 call for the purposes of the exercise. Do you require police, fire or ambulance?”
This call initiated CP’s largest mock hazardous materials (HazMat) exercise in history. On August 29, 2018 at Calgary’s Alyth Yard, CP’s Hazardous Materials and Emergency Response team gathered over 300 participants including regulators, firefighters, police, EMS, customers, CP employees, regional politicians and CP’s contractor network for an unforgettable training experience.
The day starts early at 08:00. Hundreds of participants dressed in full personal protective equipment gather under a tent in Alyth Yard, listening in silence as a call is broadcast from CP’s Police Communications Centre (PCC) to Calgary 911.
The call goes on for two minutes, describing a scenario where a train has collided with another train at the west end of the yard. Two crew members in the locomotive are not accounted for. Multiple rail cars have derailed, there are reports of smoke, and a possible ammonia leak. Police are on scene to meet the fire department.
Exercise participants in the tent watch anxiously on a live-camera feed as fake smoke is released from a staged locomotive and tank car, just 200 feet away.
The capabilities and quick-thinking of Calgary Fire and CP’s contractor fleet is now put to the test. They receive no prior information of the scenario they will encounter beyond the 911 call.
It only takes minutes for fire trucks to arrive, assess the scene and rescue full-sized dummies from the locomotive - a complicated task requiring access through the cab window. The source of the leak is visually identified and perimeters are established. CP’s HazMat and contractor fleet start arriving in tandem, totalling approximately 20 unique response units. CP Hazardous Materials and Emergency Response Officer, Dustin Ritter becomes the Incident Commander, working with the CP HazMat team and Calgary Fire to set up Incident Command in a HazMat-protected shelter, safely assess the scene and determine next steps in their response.
At CP’s Ogden headquarters, the Corporate Crisis Response Plan is immediately consulted. The severity of the incident dictates that the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) will be activated. A team of cross-functional experts assemble to watch the incident on live-camera feeds and discuss all possible impacts to CP employees and operations as details unfold.
“By bringing people into a rail yard to learn on our equipment, we show our stakeholders scenarios that they could encounter in real-life, and make them fully prepared to safely respond,” said Glen Wilson, Managing Director Environmental Risk. “This exercise also gave an opportunity for staff in our Ogden headquarters to activate the EOC, and practice how Incident Command is represented from various functions ranging from operations, engineering, mechanical, envirnonmental, police, media, legal, risk and claims. With rail incidents, it’s all-hands-on-deck, so it’s critical that we actively train with employees and stakeholders to ensure we’re prepared to respond at a moment’s notice, and at any required scale.”
“It's critical that we actively train with employees and stakeholders to ensure we're prepared to respond at a moment's notice, and at any required scale.”
Glen Wilson, Managing Director Environmental Risk
Throughout the day, participants tour the scene, watch a live transload of propane and diesel fuel from one tank car to another, attend sessions on Incident Command facilitated by Wilson and hear from Transport Canada about Emergency Response Assistance Plans. The day concludes with Ritter addressing any questions about the Incident Command structure.
“It’s been interesting, educational and humbling for us to know how small we are and how big CP is,” said Ken Thevenot, Okotoks Fire Chief, as he reflected on the day’s event. “It’s like having that big brother watching out in our small community to help us out if there is an incident.”