Full-scale emergency exercise yields important learnings for multiple stakeholders

In 2018, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) members conducted 452 emergency response exercises to test the systems and processes that are in place for quick response in managing a pipeline emergency, should one occur.

Emergency response exercises can range from emergency drills to full-scale exercises that simulate a variety of potential incidents and worst-case scenarios. Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. (TNPI) recently conducted a full-scale exercise on a section of their pipeline system in Ontario.

About Pipelines blog checked in with Alain Boulanger, TNPI’s Manager of Security, Environment and Emergency Management, to find more about the exercise.


A learning environment with multiple layers


TNPI’s October 2019 joint emergency exercise with the City of Quinte West, Ontario tested interactions between various organizations that would normally be involved in responding to a real incident.

The task was to simulate an emergency response to a pipeline incident scenario that involved the release of hazardous materials. Participants ranged from the City, and all first responders, to TNPI stakeholders, various federal and provincial government agencies (including Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Parks), TNPI contractors, consultants, pipeline regulators, and CEPA.

“We take these exercises very seriously because it provides an opportunity to improve on our plans in a simulated environment, so we’re better prepared in the unlikely event of a real incident,” said Boulanger. “We bring everyone together to test their own emergency systems and processes, to learn from each other, and work on continuous improvement.”


Major learnings


The exercise allowed TNPI to test a new web-based tool that’s being put in place to manage the Incident Action Plan (IAP). That’s the process used by the Incident Command System (ICS) to document the response while the incident is in progress – that way, everyone involved can have a common operating picture of what’s taking place.

“We found the new tool saved us a lot of manual work and time, and it improved the accuracy and efficiency of our reporting, all of which are critical to continuously improving emergency response,” explained Boulanger.

The exercise also provided an excellent opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of TNPI Control Points on the Trent River.

Control Points are pre-identified locations on rivers where responders can get access, stage and set up equipment to intercept, contain, and recover spilled product. Boulanger noted the deployment of the joint emergency response exercise was very successful in helping TNPI to validate these Control Points.


What’s next?


Now that the emergency response exercise and debriefings are over, a joint report will bring together all learnings and actions. Then, a joint after-action plan will respond to any gaps noted from the learnings, and any recommendations. These will be incorporated into the emergency response plans for all relevant stakeholders. Pipeline operators, like TNPI, as well as other critical stakeholders, will put in place follow-up processes to track progress on implementation. Those are usually tested in future emergency response exercises.

About Pipelines thanks TNPI and Alain Boulanger for sharing learnings from their recent emergency response exercise.

Learn more about how pipeline companies prepare for emergencies: