Firefighters and first responders are used to intervening in virtually every kind of emergency, from fires and natural disasters to search-and-rescue operations. Firefighter veteran Billy Goldfeder will tell you that what first responders don’t like are the emergencies they seldom, if ever, encounter like an industrial event or a pipeline incident.
“We call these low-frequency, high-risk events because they’re something you don’t see every day,” says Billy who is Deputy Chief of the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Loveland, Ohio. “They can present a big risk, but because they are so low frequency, we are not always attuned to deal with them.”
The key to effective first response is knowing what you are facing and having the skills and equipment in place to deal with it, Billy says. This is also TransCanada’s philosophy.
Emergencies are never easy to think about, but ensuring that we are prepared to handle any situation that arises is part of the zero-incident culture that our company and our employees strive for.
So how do we prepare for an emergency?
TransCanada has been in the business of transporting oil and gas for more than 60 years, building, operating and maintaining over 70,000 kilometres of pipelines across North America. Our teams have developed a solid framework to respond to any pipeline emergency, regardless of its cause.
“While emergencies are highly unlikely to happen, we do take a number of steps to prepare for potential emergencies,” says Niki, Senior Emergency Management Specialist at TransCanada.
To prepare, our teams develop Emergency Response Plans (ERPs), which describe the procedures and resources to ensure the safest and most efficient response to an emergency in order to protect and mitigate impacts to the public, responders, property and the environment. These documents are elaborated in consultation with many key stakeholders, including local fire departments, to incorporate local knowledge.
Typically, ERPs are not developed until a project has received regulatory approval but for the Energy East Pipeline project, TransCanada has already begun collaborating with regional first responders to tailor plans for specific geographic locations.
Training and collaboration
In conjunction with this, ensuring that we have all the in-house capabilities to respond to an emergency is critical whether this is in relation to staff or equipment.
“We are doing this by having people on staff who can respond to emergencies 24/7 and also by having our own internal equipment so we can respond anywhere along the pipeline system,” Niki says.
For example, we will store specialized equipment – such as boats, mobile trailers with containment boom to prevent the spread of oil, skimmers to collect oil and storage tanks to safely store collected oil – in various locations along the Energy East pipeline, allowing us to quickly and efficiently respond to any emergency.
In the unlikely event of an emergency, it’s important that everyone – at TransCanada and among local first responders – understand their roles and responsibilities. This is why we work closely with first responders to not only review ERPs but also take part in training exercises to better understand our processes as well as learn about their capabilities and their geographic location.
In 2014 TransCanada conducted more than 120 emergency drills and exercises across our entire pipeline network. It’s a collaborative effort with local emergency responders and we are thankful for their willingness to learn and desire to help.
Preventing incidents is of paramount priority to TransCanada. It has been this way for more than 60 years and it will be the case for the next 60 with Energy East.