Safety awareness and training are top priorities at TransCanada. That focus paid off on Sept. 26 for three employees who put their skills into action when the Yankton, S.D. hotel they were staying in caught fire.
Curt Olson, Billy Boyd and Derek Long had just returned to Yankton’s Best Western Kelly Inn in South Dakota, where the three men were participating in an emergency exercise, when they heard an explosive boom.
“My first thought was that a car had run through the lobby and hit the glass door,” said Curt, a mechanical technician based out of Saint Joseph, Mo. “The power went out and the fire alarms went off; there was smoke everywhere and it was so loud.”
Curt and Billy evacuated the building and ran into Derek, a TransCanada co-worker. An electrician by training, Derek recognized the boom as an electrical fire and found the hotel‘s electrician wandering down a hallway in shock and badly injured with burn marks up and down his arms.
“He was in absolute shock and very, very disoriented,” recalled Derek, an electrical instrumentation and controls technician at TransCanada’s Columbia, Mo., office. “I dragged him outside. He didn’t want to leave and kept trying to go back inside.”
Concerned the hotel electrician was not alone, Billy and Curt went back in to ensure no one else was still inside.
“From the time Derek told us it was an electrical fire and likely a small fire, it took us about 15 seconds to assess the situation, and to know we could help out and get out safely,” said Billy, who works out of Liberty, Texas, as a construction site leader on the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project. “I wear flame-resistant shirts every day, so at least I had some protection.”
Derek, who had already called 911, walked with Curt and Billy back into the building to show them where the fire was before going back outside to check on the crowd. Curt and Billy doused the blaze with a fire extinguisher and the injured man was taken by ambulance to hospital , where media reported his injuries as serious.
The three men stressed that no one should rush into a fire without proper training.
A former U.S. Marine, Billy said he felt prepared to help because of his military background and his training at TransCanada.
“We train for emergencies all the time and we know how to react. We were in the right place at the right time,” he said.
The men were among approximately 50 TransCanada staff and contractors in Yankton for emergency response training that included practice responding to a mock spill from the Keystone Pipeline. The training exercise involved deploying oil containment booms and skimming machines on the Missouri River near the Keystone Pipeline crossing downstream of Yankton.
Local emergency response agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Parks Service and other authorities were on-hand to observe the exercise and learn more about TransCanada’s procedures in the unlikely event of a spill.