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Exercise Vulcan (Train Derailment Exercise)

What is Exercise Vulcan?

This train derailment exercise, known as Exercise Vulcan, will be held on 12-13 March, 2016, at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Transport Canada is hosting this event in partnership with Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS). The main goal of the exercise is to improve Canada’s response capabilities in the event of an incident involving a train transporting flammable liquids, in particular crude oil.

Exercise Vulcan provides a unique opportunity for first responders to gain awareness and understanding of the industry resources, tactics, and techniques available to them when dealing with such incidents.The lessons learned from the exercise will be used to further the development of a training curriculum for emergency responders across Canada.

The exercise is funded through the Canadian Safety and Security Program, a federal program led by DRDC CSS, in partnership with Public Safety Canada, with in-kind contributions from participating organizations. It is one of many activities supported by the Government of Canada to improve response capabilities following the train derailment at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.



Transport Canada’s overarching objectives for Exercise Vulcan are to:

  • Increase the effectiveness of current multilevel response capacities and capabilities;
  • Support the development of a Canadian expertise on incident management and fire tactics, based on sound practices and knowledgeable, trained personnel in Canadian facilities;
  • Promote and demonstrate the importance of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) program and its associated industry response capabilities, particularly in remote communities;
  • Ensure that a timely, appropriate, safe and coordinated response exists in Canada for accidents involving the transportation of flammable liquids by rail.
  • Explore each of the possible approaches to dealing with this type of emergency response namely:
  • Non-intervention: evacuate as required, protect exposures if possible;
  • Defensive approach: control runoff, applying cooling if safe to do so, protect exposures; and
  • Offensive approach: apply foam, water spray, take direct action to extinguish fire.

Exercise Vulcan will be conducted over a period of two days. On the first day, firefighters will attend three demonstrations where they will explore various elements of a response to a train derailment involving flammable liquids. Industry instructors will provide guidance at each of the stations. On the second day, the responders will participate in a full-scale exercise simulating a train derailment, which results in a crude oil fire.

Day 1: Pre-Exercise Demonstrations

First demonstration: Participants will be faced with a simulated train derailment. They will explore how to conduct a comprehensive site assessment, which includes the following elements:

  • identify the type/contents of a railcar based on its markings and safety placards;
  • make a preliminary damage assessment from a safe distance;
  • develop a response plan in order to deal with the railcar and ensure safety of the public and first responders;
  • determine what emergency response assistance is required and make the appropriate contacts; and
  • assess the potential impact to the environment.

Second demonstration: Participants will be faced with a replicated railcar fire where they will explore the most appropriate existing strategies and tactics (offensive, defensive, non-intervention) to use when dealing with this type of fire. Elements include:

  • understanding criteria/conditions to determine when non-intervention may be the better approach as compared to defensive or offensive ;
  • what tools are in the toolbox to deal with a fire involving a rail tank car carrying a flammable liquid; and
  • understanding the dangers from heat, toxic gases and inappropriate intervention that will aggravate the situation.

Third demonstration: Participants will learn about the various industry resources – such as specialized equipment and expertise – that can be mobilized to support them during a response. There is a vast resource network available and a representative sampling will be on display.

Day 2: Exercise

During the exercise, first responders will have an opportunity to put into practice the skills and knowledge they explored during the first day by participating in a full-scale field exercise.


The exercise scenario is comprised of two parts.

Part 1

The first phase will feature a derailment of 11 rail tank cars, of which a number of the cars are leaking crude oil and a large fire is burning. The intention of this scenario is for the first responder to play out what they have covered in the first day with emphasis on the importance of the non-intervention approach. It is key to demonstrate why such a strategy is acceptable, for reasons of personal and public safety and the potential of making the situation worse.

Part 2

The second part will be a follow on to the first and will provide first responders with an opportunity to apply some defensive response tactics and develop/deploy expedient mitigation actions in a fire situation (e.g. tank car cooling, foam application on spilled product, extinguish brush fires and protect persons, property and environment).

Collaboration: A key element of the scenarios

The exercise will emphasize the fact that such situations are highly dynamic. Use of the wrong response approach will make the situation even worse. It cannot be overstated that any response actions on scene must be taken through the involvement of knowledgeable people with adequate resources and in an ‘organized’ manner, i.e. under the incident command structure or ICS, which a standard management hierarchy and procedures for responding to emergency situations so that responders from multiple organizations can work together more efficiently using a commonly understood approach.

Throughout the scenario, responders will be working side-by-side with experts from industry to assess the site, and determine and implement the correct response strategies and tactics. Transport Canada authorities will also participate in the role of regulatory oversight on scene as well as to provide technical guidance and support as required.

Participating Organizations

Exercise Development

  • Transport Canada
  • Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS)
  • Shell Canada;
  • CN Rail;
  • CP Rail;
  • Railway Association of Canada; and
  • International Safety Research (ISR).

First Responder Community

  • First responders from the Lower Mainland and Thompson-Okanagan regions of British Columbia;
  • Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner;
  • Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management;
  • École nationale des pompiers du Québec;
  • Alberta Office of the Fire Commissioner; and
  • New Brunswick Office of the Fire Marshal.

Industry Representation

  • Shell Canada;
  • CN Rail ;
  • CP Rail;
  • Railway Association of Canada;
  • Specialized Response Solutions;
  • Quantum Murray;
  • Ram Environmental;
  • Nucor Environmental Services;
  • GHD;
  • Tervita; and
  • Emergency Response Assistance Corporation (ERAC).
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