Exercise Athéna (Train Derailment Exercise)

What is Exercise Athéna?

This train derailment exercise, known as Exercise Athéna, will be held on 25-26 February, 2017, at the Institut Maritime du Québec in Lévis, Québec. Transport Canada (TC) 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 assess gaps and identify areas for improvement in Canada’s response to incidents involving flammable liquids transported by rail.  

This exercise will build on the results of Exercise Vulcan which occurred in March, 2016, in Maple Ridge, British Columbia and will provide another opportunity for first responders to gain awareness and understanding of the industry resources, tactics, and techniques available to them when dealing with such emergencies.

The exercise is funded through the Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP), 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 2013 train derailment at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

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Objectives

The main objectives for Exercise Athéna are to enhance the knowledge of first responders on:

  • TC's Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) program;
  • the existence and access to specialized response resources (petroleum industry, railway industry);
  • the dangers, hazards and difficulties occurring during a derailment involving a train carrying flammable liquids, as well as applying appropriate intervention strategies and techniques with the assistance of industry experts; and
  • a coordinated effort between all participating organizations under an organized command system.

The exercise will also:

  • collect and evaluate feedback on the use of a checklist that can be used as an intervention support tool;
  • collect feedback on the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers' online awareness training tool;
  • evaluate the impact of changes made to the program following the results of Exercise Vulcan; and
  • evaluate training elements and identify strengths and gaps in order to support the development of a national response program to respond to incidents involving flammable liquids transported by rail.

Exercise Athéna will be conducted over a period of two days, similarly to Exercise Vulcan. On the first day, first responders will attend in-class and on-field training where they will learn about the ERAP program and the resources available from industry and TC. They will discover and experience the various elements of a response to a train derailment involving flammable liquids. They will also be educated on the appropriate practices, strategies and tools.

On the second day, first responders will have an opportunity to put into practice the skills and knowledge they explored during the first day by participating in an exercise comprised of three scenarios. Industry instructors will provide guidance at each of the stations. The stations will involve either a virtual reality application or a “real life” scenario.

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Day 1: Pre-Exercise Training

Through in-class and on-field training, participants will learn about the various industry resources – such as specialized equipment and expertise – that can be mobilized to support them during a response.

In-class instruction will feature presentations on the federal mechanisms and industry resources in place to support first responders during this type of incident. Additional presentations will give first responders an overview of how to conduct a comprehensive site assessment, railcar identification, dangerous goods placards identification, basic railway operations during an incident, and specialized industry response strategies and tactics.

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Day 2: Exercise Scenarios

The exercise is comprised of three scenarios.

First scenario: Participants will be faced with a virtual reality application simulating a train derailment. Using tablet machines, they will explore how to conduct a comprehensive site assessment. The intention of this virtual reality 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.

Second scenario: 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 (offensive) in a fire situation (e.g. tank car cooling, foam application on spilled product, extinguish pool fires and protect persons, property and environment).

Third scenario: The third scenario will consist of a combination of three interactive activities. In the first activity, by using various scenarios, participants will be given the opportunity to examine the Emergency Response Guidebook 2016 more in depth. The second activity, will allow them to explore gas detection and air monitoring methods. The third activity will expose responders to the different types of industry response equipment, which could be brought to the scene in these types of emergencies.

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.

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

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Participating Organizations

Exercise Development

  • Transport Canada;
  • Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS);
  • Suncor;
  • Rail Association Canada (RAC);
  • CN Rail;
  • CP Rail;
  • Genesee & Wyoming Canada Inc.;
  • École nationale des pompiers du Québec;
  • Emergency Response Assistance Canada (ERAC);
  • MD-UN;
  • Institut maritime du Québec; and
  • International Safety Research (ISR).

First Responder Community

  • First responders from the surrounding area of Lévis (Qc);
  • Association des chefs en sécurité incendie du Québec; and
  • École nationale des pompiers du Québec.

Industry Representation

  • Suncor;
  • Rail Association Canada (RAC);
  • CN Rail;
  • CP Rail;
  • Genesee & Wyoming Canada Inc.;
  • Emergency Response Assistance Canada (ERAC);
  • MD-UN;
  • GHD; and
  • Williams Fire and Hazard Control.

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