We at Operation Lifesaver have embarked on a series featuring 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 installment of the series, we were able to catch up with a very busy and dedicated Operation Lifesaver supporter, Michael Cormier, who is not only the valuable co-chair of the Nova Scotia Operation Lifesaver committee, but also a locomotive engineer with CN. He is very passionate about rail safety, promoting OL’s lifesaving message with Canadians not only face to face, but also through social media (he’s @mikelovinns on Twitter). He’s so passionate, in fact, that he was awarded the Roger Cyr award last year for his outstanding contribution to rail safety in Canada.
What is your job in the railway industry? How long have you been doing it?
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I’m a locomotive engineer for CN in Halifax; I’ve been working for CN since 2008 in Nova Scotia. I’m also a health and safety rep with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and safety is at the forefront of a lot of my activities. Prior to working for CN, I was a conductor with Canadian Pacific in Alberta for five years. I started in the industry in 2002 after high school when I attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s Railway Program in Calgary. Much of my family had worked for or around the railway so I figured it would be a good and rewarding career path to take.
You were awarded the Roger Cyr Award last year for your dedication to rail safety. How long have you been involved with OL and the Nova Scotia Provincial Committee (NSOL)?
I first got involved with OL when I received my level I presenter certification in Calgary in 2005. When I moved to Halifax in 2008, I joined the NSOL committee and over the past five years, in addition to promoting OL through presentations and activities, I’ve progressed in roles within the committee and performed the duties of secretary, treasurer and now currently as co-chair of the committee.
Why are you involved with OL? Why do you think it's important?
Operating freight trains I’ve seen firsthand what can happen when people have a lapse in judgment and make bad decisions around rail lines. It’s never good and it’s stressful on the operating crews, and it can snowball fast in a negative way if it becomes an incident that requires an emergency response. I’ve witnessed several incidents first hand and I’ve responded to others. One incident is too many; most people don’t take our equipment seriously or give it the space and respect it deserves. If we as a program can promote our safety message to the public and it helps save even one person from making a bad or ill-fated decision somewhere, then we’ve made a difference and quite possibly saved a life. It’s one of the biggest reasons for volunteering to make presentations with a program like OL.
What kind of activities do you take part in as a means of promoting rail safety?
We have a very active and successful committee in Nova Scotia. I try and take part in as many events as I can throughout the province each year. In addition to OL presentations, I’ve also helped to plan trespassing blitzes, information “check stops,” mock scenarios and our attendance at tradeshows through displays. When we do events and activities, I try and catalogue as much of them in real time via social media whenever I can as it’s also a very valuable tool to reach the media and engage them on behalf of OL and get the #railsafety discussion started.
What does rail safety mean to you? Why should the average person care about being rail safe?
Many people do not understand how trains operate, their physical characteristics, weight and braking systems and thus the dangers posed by trespassing on our tracks as a short cut or by ignoring warning signals at public crossings. I think we’ve come a long way as an organization in educating the public and the stats show that, but there’s still incidents happening and it highlights that we still need to do more to help educate the public about the dangers that exist around railway crossings and railway property.
If you could communicate one rail safety message to Canadians, what would it be?
“Look, Listen and Live.” Railway property is private property and very dangerous. You may think it won’t happen to you and it always happens to somebody else, but to me YOU ARE somebody else.
What initiative do you think would help the public retain the OL message?
I think in the last few years OL has done a great job transitioning some of its messaging to social media and the internet, and I’m proud to have helped in various capacities in that effort. Social media is constantly evolving and we’re seeing lots of new tools to help deliver our message. One of the most successful social media campaigns I’ve seen about public railway safety was the “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign from Metro in Australia. It proved that social media can have a far-reaching impact with the rail safety message, and I think it’s a good direction to take some of our educational efforts with OL in.
Thank you so much, Mike, for your dedication to sharing the valuable and lifesaving message of rail safety. We would like to thank you for your continued commitment to supporting Operation Lifesaver.
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, and Mike, would like to remind you to be rail safe and to:
ALWAYS: Look! Listen! Live