CN, fire department run rail disaster drill in Montreal
Published Tuesday, September 12, 2017 4:16PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 12, 2017 8:08PM EDT
The fire department and CN ran a drill Tuesday to practice how they would handle a train crash involving dangerous material.
This kind of training has ramped up since the deadly train accident in Lac-Megantic four years ago – a worthwhile concern, since hazardous materials travel by rail through Montreal daily.
“Crude, acids, explosives -- all kinds of dangerous goods,” said Montreal fire department director Bruno Lachance.
Even as recently as a decade ago, safety was much more lax, said Chris Nicholson, a dangerous goods officer with CN.
“Ten years ago, let’s say, we would have plugs not in properly, valves weren’t properly closed quite often. The number one fix is just to close the valve,” he said.
The city's only hazmat team was called in as the fire department and CN practiced what to do if material spills or combusts.
Mayor Denis Coderre was on hand, and said it was a necessary measure because of the proximity of railways to some homes in the city.
“The city was built and the rails were already there. We have been putting in regulations for new houses that will be built,” he said, adding, “I want to reassure the people that all our services are on the field.”
The fire department said it wants to be ready for any situation, including one like the Lac-Megantic rail disaster – Canada’s most deadly – which claimed the lives of 47 people. That said, they prepared for a situation specific to Montreal.
“Today what we did is a lot closer to what could happen in Montreal, so it's not as big (an incident) as Megantic,” said Lachance.
Nevertheless, safety services say the Lac-Meganic train disaster was an awakening; since then they've increased the frequency and scope of these training exercises.
“It was a wake-up call for the whole industry,” said Jocelyn Latulippe. Deputy chief of CN police.
The federal government established new regulations since the disaster, including slower speeds in urban areas and having a list of contents on board readily available for emergency services.
“With Lac-Megantic, there were a couple of gaps that were looked at that were filled and made rail cars safer,” said Nicholson, adding “It's come a long ways in the last few years.”