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Rail transportation safety recommendation R04-03

Assessment of the response from Transport Canada to rail safety recommendation R04-03

 Recommendation R04-03 in PDF [116 KB]

Training for emergency responders to rail accidents involving dangerous goods


At 1612 central daylight time on 02 May 2002, Canadian National (CN) train E20251-30, proceeding eastward to Toronto, Ontario, from Edmonton, Alberta, derailed 2 locomotives and 21 freight cars after colliding with a loaded southbound tractor-trailer. The collision occurred at a public crossing near Firdale, Manitoba, at Mile 88.83 of CN's Rivers Subdivision. The derailed equipment included five tank cars carrying dangerous goods. During the derailment, four of the tank cars sustained multiple punctures and released their products. The products ignited and a large fire engulfed the derailed cars. A fibre-optic cable was severed and the Trans-Canada Highway was closed briefly. A total of 156 people were evacuated from the vicinity of the derailment for two days. There were no significant injuries to either the train crew or truck driver.

Railway personnel are not always the first on the scene of a train derailment involving dangerous goods (DGs). Consequently, local emergency responders, including medical, police and fire service personnel, many of them volunteers, play a significant role in these responses across Canada, particularly in rural communities. These emergency responders are expected to initiate the critical steps of assessment and perimeter containment based on their knowledge and expertise. In this role, familiarity with rail equipment and the risks associated with the bulk transportation of DGs is crucial.

Board Recommendation R04-03

In previous TSB accident investigation reports (R99T0256 and R01M0061), the Board raised the concern that emergency response personnel may not be provided with the training to be fully aware of and prepared for the risks associated with DGs being transported by rail through their communities. Emergency first responders continue to place themselves at risk through inappropriate decisions with regard to the rail transportation of DGs. The Board is concerned that the lack of consistent training requirements to maintain emergency responder competencies, specific to rail DG accidents, increases the risk for adverse consequences to occur during a response.

The Board recommended that:

The Department of Transport, in consultation with other federal, provincial, and municipal agencies, implement consistent training requirements that ensure emergency first responders remain competent to respond to rail accidents involving dangerous goods.
Transportation Safety Recommendation R04-03

Response to R04-03

In its reply, Transport Canada (TC) shared the TSB concern for the safety of emergency responders when they are responding to train derailments involving DGs. However, as the TSB recognized in its final report, and as stated in comments made to a previous TSB report ( - Drummond, New Brunswick), the responsibility for training provincial and municipal emergency responders (fire and police personnel) falls under provincial/municipal jurisdiction.

TC has contacted the various levels of government and highlighted this recommendation to them. TC has also recently distributed a BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapour Explosions) video to all Canadian fire departments and is preparing a new brochure for distribution to emergency responders.

Board Assessment of Response to R04-03

TC has taken action to contact other levels of government that have responsibility for training first responders, with what appears to be positive results. Additionally, the BLEVE video distribution should have a positive effect on first responders. Finally, TC's new brochure will also add to the awareness by the police, firefighters and other first responders on how to approach the scene of an accident involving DGs. It is worth noting that TC does not get involved in training, as this is purely a provincial responsibility, and is not monitoring emergency responder training. However, TC, through the Canadian Transport Emergency Centre (CANUTEC), does participate annually in hundreds of DG release simulations. It also mails its quarterly Transportation of Dangerous Goods newsletter to the 4012 fire departments in Canada.

TC has agreed with the concern of the recommendation and has notified the provinces. TC is also preparing another brochure for first responders. TC's response is positive, and TC has progressed the safety issue to the responsible change agents.

TC's response to recommendation R04-03 is assessed as Fully Satisfactory.