Operation Lifesaver volunteers and partners work hard year-round to spread our rail safety message and these efforts are redoubled during Public-Rail Safety Week. In Labrador West, a mining region with private railways, the provincial committee worked hard to ensure industry, government and the public received the message that rail safety is a shared responsibility.
OL volunteers brought together almost all of the major first responders and organizations in the region for a mock disaster table top exercise. The more than 25 participants included municipal representatives from the towns of Labrador City and Wabush, local fire departments, municipal and provincial police, mining company safety supervisors, public agencies, the Red Cross, the provincial Fire and Emergency Measures group, Safety Services NL, Jim Stanton Associates—who developed the exercise—and the region’s train companies Western Labrador Rail Services, Cliffs NR and Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railways.
The scenario was the collision of a tour bus and train that involved 56 passengers and resulted in deaths and multiple injuries. At the end of the exercise, strengths and weaknesses of the response efforts were identified including communication and transportation problems related to the location of the incident and the need for more coordination with the neighbouring province of Quebec. The exercise was an excellent opportunity for Operation Lifesaver, Safety Services NL and the towns to work together and led the towns to revise their emergency response plan.
“An activity like we did is a great opportunity to test the emergency responses that you think you have,” says Lloyd Hobbs, Traffic Safety Manager for Safety Services Newfoundland and Co-Chair of the Operation Lifesaver Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Committee. “By having all of the agencies present, we found that there were silos of information that hadn’t been shared with other organization. This exercise was a great opportunity to not only meet and mingle but also to share information that previously had not been shared. All of the agencies have a common goal.”
During PRSW, the OL committee also made annual school visits and awarded prizes to the winners of the OL poster contest with its theme of promoting rail safety. Students from all levels of the school system—primary, elementary and secondary—participated and the posters were highlighted at the mock table top exercise.
“We always try to get the youth in the community involved,” says Hobbs. The poster contest helps to show the effectiveness of Operation Lifesaver campaigns. “In the community there are a lot of snow mobiles in the winter and ATVs in the summer and there’s always the temptation to use the rail tracks. We know how unsafe that is so we promote ATV safety. There are always contest entries around that theme because the students see it.”
The OL committee also uses PRSW as an opportunity to spread the rail safety message through public and media information campaigns. A display at the local shopping mall provided information to hundreds of passersby and the committee was interviewed by CBC radio, CBC TV and the local newspaper.
The efforts of the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial committee are representative of the commitment that OL volunteers across the country make to spreading our important rail-safety message. We thank all of our volunteers and partners for working so hard to help minimize the deaths and injuries resulting from railway incidents. Collectively, we can have a huge impact!