We at Operation Lifesaver have embarked on a new series featuring some firsthand accounts from survivors, those who work with people who have experienced critical incidents, rail employees willing to share their experiences, and dedicated Operation Lifesaver supporters. In sharing their stories, we hope that you will be reminded of the very real dangers associated with trespassing on railway property and behaving unsafely at highway-railway crossings. Please share these stories with your family and friends so that no one you love befalls a similar fate.
In this instalment of the series, we sat down with Operation Lifesaver supporter, Dean Solowan, Community Service Officer with CN Rail, who is passionate about the work he does promoting rail safety and working with Operation Lifesaver.
What is your job in the railway industry? How long have you been doing it?
I have been working with CN as a police officer for 16 years; eight of those years have been in the Lower Mainland of B.C. the remaining in Edmonton, Alta. Currently in Edmonton, I have taken on the full-time role as a Community Service Officer travelling Alberta.
When did you find out about OL?
While in B.C. I was exposed to Operation Lifesaver and found it rewarding so I continued and became a Level 2 OL presenter trainer.
Why are you involved with Operation Lifesaver? Why do you think it's important?
I became involved in Operation Lifesaver as I have a passion for speaking to people and it was time to go from reactive policing to educational policing by changing peoples’ behaviours and attitudes. People of all ages have misconceptions of the railway, either through parental raising, peer pressure or personal curiosity, and I am hoping that open discussion and explaining the facts will put these misconceptions to rest.
What kind of activities do you take part in as a means of promoting rail safety?
I promote railway safety and awareness using a variety of interaction methods; presentations to first responders, professional truck and bus drivers, schools from Kindergarten to grades 1-12, safety expos, community events, guest speaking, railway shows, newspaper safety messages, media intervention and Public-Rail Safety Week.
What does rail safety mean to you? Why should the average person care about being rail safe?
I know that upon completion of my presentation my audience will have walked away learning something that they did not initially know. I hope kids and adults will apply this safety information when tempted individually or under peer pressure.
It's rewarding when I am out in the public, in uniform or not, and people identify me as the "Train Cop or CN policeman". I always ask them the question: "What is the most important safety message you have learned from my talk?". The common responses are: “Stay away from trains”, “Don't climb through them or put objects on the tracks”.
If you could communicate one rail safety message to Canadians what would it be?
It would be for people to stay off of railway property and equipment—it is both dangerous and illegal.
What initiative(s) do you think would help the public retain the OL message?
- Short public service announcements aired regularly during Public-Rail Safety Week and randomly beyond.
- One message would be a family at a funeral mourning the loss of their child due to taking a short cut through a train or racing a train trying to beat it.
- Factual public service announcements with messaging that includes: "trespassing is against the law, you could be placed under arrest and charged"; the weight of a train and how long it takes to stop. Another could be a train going into emergency from the view of the interior of a locomotive showing the trespasser or vehicle on the tracks, the reaction of the crew and limited images of the impact then going into train facts, stopping distance, weight ratios etc.
- Distracted driving and not paying attention to advanced warning signs, bells etc. This could be depicted by a driver being deceived by distance and going over tracks causing an impact or a near miss.
- New Drivers: a video on railway safety included in their training (similar to the current one OL has) with some questions on the final exam that would be extracted from this video.
Thank you so much, Dean, for sharing with us the important work you do, in particular in the communities in Alberta with CN and Operation Lifesaver. We would like to thank you for your continued commitment to supporting Operation Lifesaver. It is supporters like you that will help get the never-ending and extremely valuable message of rail safety out to the masses.
For more information and a wealth of free online rail safety resources, please bookmark Operation Lifesaver, and share it with your family and friends.
Want to read more real life rail safety stories? Check these out:
As always, we would like to remind you to be rail safe and ALWAYS: Look! Listen! Live