The Cochrane Fire Department is a pillar in the northeastern Ontario community. The town was devastated by fire three times in the early 20th century so the fire hall is something of a landmark, a source of local pride, just like Chimo, the polar bear statue that is the mascot of the town of 5,500.
The task at hand is huge for 38 local volunteer firefighters who cover the town and nearly 500 kilometres of roads in the surrounding rural areas, fighting fires and assisting with road accidents.
Some of them can be fairly serious like the rollover in July 2014 of a truck loaded with hazardous sulphur dioxide. Fortunately, the incident was contained and the area fully cleaned in just a couple of days, thanks in large part to the professionalism of Fire Chief Richard Vallée’s crew.
Prepared to respond to any emergency
“It all comes down to having the equipment we need to respond and being prepared to deal with these emergencies,” says Vallée who joined the Cochrane Fire Department as a volunteer 15 years ago. For as long as Vallée can remember the Cochrane Fire Department has regularly teamed up with TransCanada to conduct some of these emergency response exercises.
“Over the past 15 years, I have personally participated in over 15 exercises with TransCanada, whether it is them coming to our Monday evening trainings or organizing big emergency response exercises like Operation 649,” Vallée says, referring to an emergency preparedness training organized by TransCanada in Cochrane in September 2010.
TransCanada has been involved in the Cochrane community for about four decades as the operator of the Canadian Mainline system of natural gas pipelines. In 2013, we proposed to convert one of those lines to oil transport as part of the Energy East Pipeline project that will move crude oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick.
Partners in pipeline safety
Part of the Energy East team’s work to develop the project has involved collaborating with local first responders along the proposed pipeline route to prepare emergency response plans, not because we expect an emergency to happen but because our commitment to safety means we prepare for everything, even the most unlikely situations.
“The logistics of Operation 649 were pretty impressive. TransCanada got all local agencies involved, from firefighters to ambulances and the police. We all worked together to respond to a mock emergency,” Vallée recalls. “The exercise really showed us how important it was for us to operate under one command. TransCanada really got that through.”
Vallée says his team made changes to the way the Cochrane Fire Department works as a result of this exercise, adding an incident command for instance. Training with local responders on a regular basis ensures that everyone knows what to do in the unlikely event of a pipeline incident.
At TransCanada, we have been collaborating with local first responders for over half a century and this work continues as we move ahead with critical energy infrastructure projects such as Energy East.
Why? Because first responders are our partners in pipeline safety.
Hear what Vallée and other local responders across Canada have to say about how we work to ensure we continue to safely deliver the energy that all Canadians need.