Passersby around Western Fair District will have to look twice this week as emergency training is underway for local first-responders and their counterparts from CN Rail (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP).
The city is teaming up with the two rail giants to hold an emergency training exercise Aug. 5-9, taking place at the CN rail yard (286 Rectory St.) south of the Western Fairgrounds. The training is designed to enhance the city’s ability to respond to a potential railroad accident, and improve collaboration between municipal and railway staff.
This is the fourth major training exercise involving the city and the railroads dating back to 2007.
Officials from at least seven other municipalities are participating. Among those taking part in the exercise launch on Monday (Aug. 5) was Dave O’Brien, division manager of corporate security and emergency management.
O’Brien said the emergency training exercise will bring a variety of crews through from a number of agencies across the city. “One of the key things that this does for us in the event that something should happen, we have faces to names, we’ve trained together, and our response will be that much better as a result of events like this.”
More than 19 officials from the city plus 22 from area municipalities or agencies will be involved in the training, which will include the use of rail cars, emergency vehicles and staff. Training scenarios could involve vehicles using their emergency lights, and special effects to enhance the training.
The exercise site will be closely monitored for safety reasons, and the public need not call 911 for activities related at that site from Aug. 5 to 9 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In a media release, Mayor Joni Baechler said the city’s Emergency Management Program works to reduce the impact of a crisis before, during and after an event.
“Our teamwork with CN and CP is part of our ongoing commitment to be better prepared should an emergency occur, so we can work as quickly and efficiently as possible to protect our community,” said Baechler said. “Both railroads have main lines running through our city, and transport goods not only to London but to destinations across the country. Given this large volume of rail traffic we place great focus on safety and training so we are prepared to respond in case of an emergency.”
Andy Ash, manager dangerous goods with the Railway Association of Canada, said the railway mode of transport is statistically the safest mode of transport.
If, however, there is an accident involving dangerous goods and the railway, the goal is of these training sessions is to make sure municipal personnel are well prepared to assist rail officials in dealing with public safety and protection of the environment.
“We do this across Canada. We speak to the municipal responders, the public, we put on this training to deal with a dangerous goods incident,” Ash said. “We have run police, fire, EMS through all the different aspects. We have emergency trailers, emergency tank cars, all the types of equipment we may find on railway property. That way municipal first responders can get used to, and expect to see, when responding to an incident.”
The exercise will be closed to the public for safety reasons. The training will be held on rail lines that will be taken out of service, however there are other nearby active rail tracks.