Meet Operation Lifesaver’s Advisory Committee: Read an interview with committee member Chris Lungstrass

This week we continue our series of blog posts featuring interviews with the members of the Operation Lifesaver Advisory Committee. You’ll get to know the dedicated people who work together to educate Canadians on rail safety, with the goal of preventing railway related injuries and deaths. These committee members work to develop Operation Lifesaver’s national direction, set goals and priorities and offer advice to National Director, Dan Di Tota, on how best to develop and implement Operation Lifesaver’s programs. This week’s interview is with Chris Lungstrass, Inspector for the Ontario Provincial Police, Eastern Region Headquarters. The Ontario Provincial Police is Ontario’s provincial police service. Their officers work to ensure that the province’s communities are safe and that the province itself is secure. They accomplish this goal by focusing on the following areas: crime prevention, traffic safety, investigations, specialized response teams, intelligence, community relations, Aboriginal policing, contract policing and auxiliary policing. On when he joined the Advisory Committee and how it happened: “I’ve been part of the committee for three years. I took my current position with the Ontario Provincial Police three years ago and the position on the Advisory Committee came with the job.” On how railway safety is part of his day-to-day job: “My function within our organization is to oversee all traffic safety and marine issues in the eastern part of the province of Ontario. Primarily, my focus is on traffic safety and with that comes highway-railway crossings. We don’t have a huge issue with incidents here but the potential is always there.” On one reason why railway safety is important to the Ontario Provincial Police: “A number of years ago, we had two of our officers killed at a highway-railway crossing in our area. So for us as an organization, grade crossing safety is near and dear to our hearts – it’s part of what we do.” On how Operation Lifesaver’s mandate fits into the Ontario Provincial Police’s focus on public safety: “The Ontario Provincial Police are responsible for many areas related to public safety, be it traffic or otherwise, and Operation Lifesaver is one of them. In Ontario, we have what we refer to as “The Big Four”. These are four major areas that statistically have proven to contribute to collisions: alcohol, occupant restraint (seat belts and helmets), distracted driving and aggressive driving. We take very proactive steps in all of these areas, in terms of legislation that is in place to mitigate them. Operation Lifesaver and the highway-railway crossing piece fit into “The Big Four” in the areas of aggressive driving and distracted driving.” On how the Ontario Provincial Police work to enforce trespassing laws on railway property: “Our officers respond to a number of trespassing complaints regularly as part of our normal policing function. The difference between the OPP and the CP Police or CN Police, for example, is that they are very proactive; they’re actively out there mitigating trespassing. We are more reactive. Generally we’re responding to a call for service, where an individual has called us to report someone trespassing.” On how the Ontario Provincial Police works with the railway police to enforce railway safety: “We work collaboratively with CN Police and CP Police officers. For example, if a railway engineer notices that there’s a high incidence of people going around the barrier at a certain crossing, the railway will likely send an officer to enforce in that area. If the crossing is located along one of the many rail corridors in our area, we will have one of our officers go work with them collaboratively. We don’t have any entrenched, recurring collaborative approaches, but if the railway police have a problem with a crossing, we are happy to assist them. Conversely, if we recognize that there’s a problem at a certain crossing, we engage the railway police and have one of their officers come to assist us.” On the Advisory Committee: “They’re a very focused group. They clearly recognize the mandate and work hard to achieve it. As a group, they’re open to different approaches and suggestions. They’re all good folks; they’re all well intentioned; they’re all leaders in their field and they do a great job.” On the Operation Lifesaver program: “I find it interesting that Operation Lifesaver is an international program. There are great events and programs taking place in Europe and all over the world. I receive a great deal of correspondence from Dan Di Tota about things that are happening in other parts of the world and we tap into them for inspiration. The international cooperation piece to it all is very compelling.” On the importance of messaging to any public safety campaign and Operation Lifesaver’s success at keeping the rail-safety message at the forefront: “In my role, the communications piece to the public is constant. We’re continuously messaging to people about the need to wear seatbelts, the need to drive attentively, the need to not be on your phone while you’re driving. I’m very tuned in to the fact that you can’t be complacent in delivering this message. You have to stay out there; you need to be in the forefront; you need to be delivering your message over and over again. I think that with the different programs that Operation Lifesaver has, for kids, professional drivers etc., and the different approaches they use, like the website, they’re doing a great job in keeping the rail-safety message in the public consciousness.” Check back next week for our next interview with Bill Walker, President & CEO for Safety Services New Brunswick.