It’s been six years since the last major disaster happened in Trail – mock disaster that is.
At 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, the call went out for all first responders to suit up for an ammonia gas leak on a rail car at Teck Trail Operations’ fertilizer plant in Warfield.
The “unplanned vapour release” on Bingay Road was the first real-time mock incident in a sequence of simulated scenarios organized by the Trail plant in a joint emergency response exercise with its mutual aid partners in the regional district and local municipalities.
“This training scenario was designed in order to incorporate all the participating agencies,” said Catherine Adair, Teck’s community relations leader.
“And best ensure that all the first responders are prepared in the unlikely event that an incident may occur.”
Teck’s fire crew and highly trained emergency personnel were first on the scene to secure the area before jumping into safety gear including gas masks and using the truck’s water hoses to dissipate the vapour cloud.
Once the air cleared, crews pulled the volunteer rail car operator to safety.
To cap off the pseudo-gas leak located on the top of the train, two crew members zipped into hazmat suits with self-contained breathing apparatus for protection against the (fake) toxic ammonia plume.
The second leg of the exercise had the vapour leak crossing the road outside the fence of the operation, causing a two-car vehicle collision and the need for first responders to use the jaws of life for rescue.
By this point, 15 members of Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue (KBRFR) were on site, with 10 staff members from the Village of Montrose, City of Trail, Village of Warfield and regional district using the Regional Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to support site operations.
“The exercise is extremely valuable to provide an opportunity for agencies and staff to work together in a non-emergency setting,” said Dan Derby, KBRFR deputy regional fire chief and emergency program coordinator. “The key focus of the whole exercise is to build capacity to support our communities,” he continued. “During the exercise planning we’ve been able to build and strengthen new and existing relationships that will be invaluable during an emergency.
“These relationships alone mean the exercise was a success.”
The activation of the regional EOC, located in the basement of Greater Trail Community Centre for this event, provided team members experience in notification, evacuation alerts, mapping, media relations and logistics in the event of a real-life emergency.
Using a mix of staff from four local governments was a key focus in mobilizing the EOC, said Derby.
“This is a great test of our regional model and one we have trained hard for to ensure the team can provide necessary services.”
Additional participating agencies included the BC Ambulance Service, FortisBC, Canadian Red Cross, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and Emergency Management BC.