It’s Jeremy Dangel’s job to be prepared for the worst case scenario. As manager of TransCanada’s Emergency Preparedness and Response, Dangel and his team must be prepared to effectively respond to an incident of any kind on TransCanada’s pipeline systems.
The company’s ability to respond was recently tested during a day-and-a-half-long exercise, dubbed “Operation Riverboat,” that simulated an oil spill resulting from a third-party pipeline strike near water in Yankton, South Dakota.
The operation included more than 100 participants from TransCanada, three regulators, four local governments, first responders and six contractors – not to mention members of TransCanada’s board and Executive Leadership Team. Collaboration was more than just a good idea – it was critical to the operation’s success.
“Everybody came with a willingness to quickly integrate and work together,” said Dangel. “People brought their subject matter expertise, their training and their experience to the exercise, and they also brought a willingness to work quickly and safely as a team to solve problems.”
Expect the unexpected
During the exercise, emergency crews deployed booms that would contain the crude and prevent it from reaching the main channel of the Missouri River.
But, typical of such exercises, there was a major curveball overnight.
In contrast to the beautiful autumn weather the crews were actually experiencing in Yankton, the simulation imposed foul weather that settled in overnight. As part of the exercise, high winds had caused the crude to move beyond the booms, and into the creek heading straight for the river. An Emergency Operations Centre was established in Calgary, and an Incident Command Centre was set up in Yankton. Everyone recognized both the urgency and TransCanada’s responsibility to respond quickly and efficiently.
The Incident Command System used by TransCanada is recognized across North America as the best way to allocate human and tactical emergency response resources.
Exercise proved to be a resounding success
Activity on the river and in the Incident Command Centre was rapid, orderly and efficient.
“I am very satisfied with how it went,” said Dangel.
Paul Scherschligt, emergency management director for Yankton County, concurs.
“The thing that impressed me the most about the TransCanada exercise is that what they told us in the past they could do, they can do,” said Scherschligt.
“We always hear comments like, ‘If there’s an incident, we can bring thousands of pieces of equipment to the scene in no time.’ I believe it now. After seeing the level of response in this incident, it puts me a little more at ease, knowing that the stuff is there and available, and they are serious about what they say they can do.”
Having the state and federal regulators on hand to evaluate TransCanada’s response to the drill added an extra level of realism to the scenario.
“We invite that,” says Dangel. “We always welcome feedback on our processes so we can continually improve. We are always upping our game and raising the bar for the industry.”
“The thing that impressed me the most about the TransCanada exercise is that what they told us in the past they could do, they can do,” Paul Scherschligt, emergency management director for Yankton County .
Continually improving processes
TransCanada is committed to doing the right thing and understanding how all the moving parts work together to make a cohesive and effective response to an emergency.
That’s why the company conducted more than 120 emergency drills and exercises across our entire network of assets in 2014.
“We do these exercises to identify opportunities and gaps in our program so they can be addressed before we have an actual incident,” said Dangel. “We test our actual processes against possible real-world scenarios.”
Having members of TransCanada’s Board of Directors and Executive Leadership Team participate in the drill demonstrated the level of commitment to safety throughout the organization.
“To me, that’s a strong reflection of our corporate values that we have senior leadership—all the way up to the top of the organization—that is interested, concerned and supportive of our ability to prepare for and effectively respond to an incident of any kind on all our systems,” said Dangel.