Fifteen local firefighters and first responders, along with another fifteen from across the province, attended a major training session in Humboldt on July 6. Saskatchewan Transcaer (Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response) and its affiliated agencies were on hand to provide approximately 30 emergency personnel with a close up look at how to handle railside transportation mishaps. With Humboldt and many of its surrounding communities on a major east-west rail corridor, local first responders may be called upon to manage the initial stages of a derailment or container breach.
Mike Kwasnica, Chief of the Humboldt Fire Department outlined the training, "Saskatchewan Transcaer is the training group who comes out and teachers first responders about different safety aspects when responding to rail or road incidents. Basically, it's for any dangerous good or commodity that they might be shipping."
Among the organizations who contributed to the training were CN Rail; CP Rail; Green For Life (GFL), which is an environmental response company from Saskatoon; the Railway Association of Canada; and Federated Co-op. Each of the organizations carries its own expertise on the transportation and security of what are considered hazardous goods and products.
Part of the training involved learning the anatomy of a railcar. Kwasnica explains, "When we're responding to these incidents, they want to make sure that we know what the cars are and how they are made, what are some of the valves and fittings on them." GFL brought a response trailer and provided an overview of what measures are taken to secure and clean an area that's been impacted by a spill. More importantly, the group learned about the role of the first responders prior to the arrival of rail or hazardous materials crews.
Kwasnica emphasizes the importance of such training given the variety of materials transported throughout the region by road or rail.
"It's absolutely crucial that we touch on at least a bit of everything just so we have some information when we do need to make the right call. We'll know who to contact and the proper channels to get more detailed information."
The Fire Chief says it's about knowing what to do to contain the situation and keep their first responders and the public safe in case of an emergency incident.