Backgrounder Article from  Transport Canada

Exercise Vulcan: increasing Canada's response capabilities to a train derailment carrying flammable liquids

12 March 2016

On March 12 and 13, 2016, Transport Canada and Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), an agency of the Department of National Defence (DND), will conduct Exercise Vulcan to improve Canada’s response capabilities in the event of an incident involving a train carrying flammable liquids, such as crude oil.

Through the exercise, the Government of Canada has created a unique forum for industry experts and the first response community to explore capabilities and improve response effectiveness when dealing with these types of emergencies.

Exercise Vulcan will be conducted in two phases. On the first day, first responders will participate in three specialized demonstrations, each focused on a unique aspect of an emergency response involving the transportation of flammable liquids by rail. On the next day, responders will participate in a full-scale field exercise where they will work alongside industry experts to respond to a simulated train derailment scenario. Transport Canada will participate as the regulatory authority on scene to provide technical guidance and support as required.

The exercise is led by Transport Canada, in partnership with DRDC’s Centre for Security Science. Partners include first responders from the Lower Mainland and Thompson-Okanagan regions of British Columbia, Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner, Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, l'École nationale des pompiers du Québec, Alberta Office of the Fire Commissioner, and New Brunswick Office of the Fire Marshal, as well as industry partners from Shell Canada, CN Rail, CP Rail, Railway Association of Canada, Specialized Response Solutions, Quantum Murray, Ram Environmental, Nucor Environmental Services, GHD, Tervita, and Emergency Response Assistance Corporation (ERAC).

Learning Demonstrations

First responders are usually the first on the scene when a train derails, but when the incident involves large volumes of flammable liquids, a more specialized response is needed to ensure the safety of both the public and the responders. In the first demonstration, participants face a simulated train derailment where they will have to conduct a comprehensive site assessment, including the following aspects:

  • identify the type of railcar based on its markings and identify the contents;
  • make a preliminary damage assessment from a safe distance; and
  • develop a risk assessment which takes into account the risk to life, health, property and the environment.

This information will inform a response strategy and help determine if additional resources are needed. It is also valuable information that can be passed on to the specialized industry response teams, when they need to be called in to support the local responders.

When dealing with a flammable liquids fire, using the wrong approach can often make the situation worse. Specialized techniques are required to combat and contain the complex fires that occur when dealing with rail tank cars. Dangerous goods, including flammable liquids, have unique properties that do not necessarily respond to traditional firefighting methods. In these situations, it is critical that the various emergency response organizations collaborate and share information to deal effectively with the emergency.

In the second demonstration, participants will be faced with a replicated railcar fire where they will test the appropriate response strategies, including tactics, techniques and procedures to use when dealing with this type of fire.

The third demonstration will allow responders to become familiar with various industry resources, including specialized equipment and expertise that can be mobilized to help them during a response.

Support for first responders

Responding to a train derailment is often a joint effort between responders and other organizations with specific mandates related to these types of incidents. Transport Canada’s main role during an emergency situation involving dangerous goods is to bring together the right people – first responders, industry specialists, hazmat experts – and provide immediate scientific advice.

In the event of an incident involving dangerous goods, Transport Canada provides real-time help and information to first responders through CANUTEC, the department’s 24/7 emergency response centre. The department may also provide on-the-ground support from a Remedial measures specialist (RMS) who may be dispatched to the scene. These emergency response specialists are experienced in interpreting technical information from various scientific sources in order to provide pertinent and timely advice.

Under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, railway shippers are required to develop an Emergency Response Assistance Plan – known as an ERAP – to ensure measures are in place to quickly respond in the event of a rail incident involving dangerous goods.

An ERAP is a formal plan that describes what industry will do to support first responders in the event of an incident involving their dangerous goods and describes the specialized response capabilities, equipment and procedures that will be used. ERAPs must be prepared and submitted to Transport Canada for verification and approval before the shipment can take place.

About Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC)

DRDC is the national leader in defence and security science and technology (S&T). As an agency of Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND), DRDC provides DND, the Canadian Armed Forces and other government departments, as well as the public safety and security communities, with the knowledge and technology advantage needed to defend and protect Canada’s interests at home and abroad.

About the Canadian Safety and Security Program

The Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) is a federal program led by DRDC’s Centre for Security Science, in partnership with Public Safety Canada, which provides policy guidance. Established in 2012, the CSSP invests in S&T projects that strengthen Canada’s ability to anticipate, prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters, serious accidents, crime and terrorism. This is achieved through the convergence of S&T with policy, operations and intelligence.

The program supports projects that bring together federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governments, first responders, response and emergency management organizations, non-governmental agencies, industry and academia to develop S&T solutions and advice to public safety and security challenges.


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Hon. Marc Garneau Transport Canada Transport

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