Dangerous Goods Response In Western Canada

Saskatchewan is a "prairie province" in the West Central region of Canada covering 227,134 square miles with an estimated population of 1,023,810. Most of the population of Saskatchewan resides in the southern half of the province. The province's name...


Saskatchewan is a "prairie province" in the West Central region of Canada covering 227,134 square miles with an estimated population of 1,023,810. Most of the population of Saskatchewan resides in the southern half of the province. The province's name comes from the Saskatchewan River, whose name is...


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  • Level I response dispatches the district engine. These responses include needle pickups, fuel spills under 45 gallons and CO responses.
  • Level IB response dispatches Dangerous Goods Engine 4 and involves monitoring of the atmosphere for natural gas leaks, unknown chemical smells, pepper spray calls, fuel spills larger than 45 gallons, chlorine release at pools, mercury spills and motor vehicle accidents involving leaks of unknown liquids from trailers. The dangerous goods trailer is placed on standby.
  • Level II response dispatches the district engine, Engine 4 and the dangerous goods trailer. The decontamination trailer is placed on standby unless it is known there are victims from the dispatch information. Level II response examples include natural gas calls at commercial facilities, unknown chemical spills, ammonia and chlorine releases on highways or at commercial facilities, fires at auto body or similar businesses, and white-powder calls at target locations.
  • Level IIB responses involve the dispatch of all dangerous goods equipment and apparatus. These incidents include highway incidents involving dangerous goods, train derailments, multiple people having same signs and symptoms at public places or events, explosions in public buildings and anything related to CBRN events.
  • Level III incidents include train derailments with mass leakage, large chemical releases from chemical plants where evacuation is required, airplane crashes and chemical plumes crossing jurisdictional boundaries. The city's emergency management coordinator is notified of any incidents at Level II or above.

Mutual aid in Saskatoon is provided by chemical manufacturers' response teams and other private contractors. Chemists at the University of Saskatchewan are available to provide technical information about chemicals and how to handle neutralization and decontamination. The Saskatoon dangerous goods team also works closely with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the city police provincial clandestine drug lab team on incidents. Saskatoon is in the heart of Canada's agricultural belt and several chemical and fertilizer distribution facilities are in the area. Two major chemical facilities on the city's north side have sodium chlorate, liquid chlorine, sodium hypochlorite, acids, acrylonitrile, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals on site. Most commonly encountered chemicals at incidents in the past have included anhydrous ammonia, chlorine, natural gas and hydrocarbon fuel spills.

Two major railroads serve Saskatoon — Canadian Pacific on the northeast side and Canadian National on the southwest side. Major dangerous goods transportation routes bring truck traffic to the north end of the city. Eight major transportation routes feed through the city.

For more information, contact Fire Service Instructors Wilbur Hueser at wilbur.hueser@saskatoon.ca or Eron McCormick at eron.mccormick@saskatoon.ca.

ROBERT BURKE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is the fire marshal for the University of Maryland Baltimore. He is a Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFSP), Fire Inspector II, Fire Inspector III, Fire Investigator and Hazardous Materials Specialist, and has served on state and county hazardous materials response teams. Burke is an adjunct instructor at the National Fire Academy and the Community College of Baltimore, Catonsville Campus, and the author of the textbooks Hazardous Materials Chemistry for Emergency Responders and Counter-Terrorism for Emergency Responders. He can be contacted at robert.burke@att.net.