As an aspiring paramedic, Brittany Follatt is used to moving fast and learning how to make quick decisions in life-or-death situations. What she is not so comfortable with is being the one who is helpless and waiting for medical help to arrive at the scene of an accident. But that’s exactly what she had to do during an emergency response exercise hosted by TransCanada last week in North Bay, Ontario.
“It was really interesting to see things from a patient’s point of view,” said Follatt, a student in the Primary Care Paramedic program at CTS Canadian Career College in North Bay. “It made me appreciate how long it feels to be waiting for the ambulance to arrive, and it really made me realize how many distractions there are during an emergency and the importance of ensuring a scene is safe before I rush in to help somebody.”
Follatt and three of her classmates used copious amounts of makeup and fake blood as they played the role of crash victims in a mock emergency staged on TransCanada’s Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline system, just north of the city. The drill was designed to put the company’s Emergency Management System to the test, with dozens of employees putting their emergency response training to work. It also provided valuable experience for local firefighters, EMS crews, police, Red Cross volunteers and forestry staff who took part in the exercise.
While the emergency was a mock situation, TransCanada’s goal was to simulate a real-world emergency scenario. Prior to the exercise, no details of the event were released, providing participants with a life-like experience during the exercise. The scenario involved a delivery car carrying four people crashing into one of the buildings at TransCanada’s compressor station No. 116, sparking a natural gas leak and a fire that quickly spread to the trees next to the site, threatening nearby homes. While such a disaster is highly unlikely, it provided a wide range of challenges for all the participants to deal with in order to protect public safety and minimize impact on the environment.
TransCanada employees were responsible for the safe shut-down and evacuation of equipment; firefighters had to ensure the scene of the accident was safe for paramedics who arrived to transport patients to the hospital; police were on scene to investigate the cause of the crash; Ministry of Natural Resources crews had to deal with the forest fire while Emergency Management Ontario and the Red Cross looked after the safe evacuation of neighbouring homes and businesses.
“This was an excellent opportunity to work together in a learning atmosphere to see what everybody brings to the table in situations like this,” said North Bay Fire Chief Grant Love.
“Responding to large-scale incidents like this is always a combined effort — nobody does it by themselves — so having an opportunity to train alongside TransCanada’s people and all of our community partners provides great experience and knowledge for everybody.”
— Grant Love, North Bay Fire Chief
In addition to the ongoing occupational safety and emergency response training all employees are required to take, every TransCanada operating region is required to hold at least one emergency response exercise each year. More than 90 exercises were held last year at our pipeline and power facilities across North America and about the same number are expected this year as part of our commitment to the safe and reliable delivery of energy products that millions of people rely upon every day.
TransCanada employs almost 100 people in the North Bay area and more employees and contractors are expected in the future with the development of the proposed Energy East Pipeline, which parallels the Canadian Mainline across Ontario.
“Normally we do our exercises in remote areas along the right-of-way for our pipelines, so it was very different to do it on the site of one of our large facilities close to town,” said TransCanada area manager Rick Kusiak.
“I always try and involve local first responders in our exercises because then we can interact as we would during a real-life situation and there is a lot we can learn from each other and improve.”
— Rick Kusiak, TransCanada area manager, North Bay
Last week, TransCanada employees also took part in the first Joint Emergency Management Exercise held by the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), which saw representatives from the country’s biggest pipeline companies come together in Edmonton to deal with an oil spill scenario in the North Saskatchewan River. The exercise was part of the Mutual Emergency Assistance Agreement (MEAA) created last year between all of CEPA’s member companies.
“The exercise shows we are committed to increased transparency and shared best practices,” said Brenda Kenny, CEPA’s president and CEO. “It also demonstrates there is no competition when it comes to safety. Any incident is everyone’s incident. It’s that simple,”