Meet Operation Lifesaver’s Advisory Committee: Read an interview with committee member Adam Thompson

This week we conclude our series of blog posts featuring interviews with the members of the Operation Lifesaver Advisory Committee. Over the past several months, you’ve gotten 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. Our final interview is with Adam Thompson, Policy Advisor for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities represents the interests of municipalities on policy and program matters that fall within federal jurisdiction. The organization’s more than 2,000 members include Canada's largest cities, small urban and rural communities, and 21 provincial and territorial municipal associations. On how he became involved with the Advisory Committee: “I became involved with Operation Lifesaver through an initiative that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has with the Railway Association of Canada. In 2003, the two organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding to address and minimize the sources of conflict between municipalities and railways. The core of the agreement was to recognize that there are some operations, both municipally and privately, that can cause conflict and that both parties are interested in respectful and peaceful resolutions to these issues. The issue of railway safety is one area that the railways and municipalities really agree on and where our interests align. Out of discussions like this, I was made aware of Operation Lifesaver and the work that the railways and other stakeholders are committing to do in order to reduce incidents and promote railway safety in our communities. I joined the committee about six months ago.” On why he thinks railway safety education is important on a personal level: “My sister has two young kids going to school in southwestern Ontario – one is in preschool and one is in Grade 2. Their school is near railway tracks. It’s important to me that schools like theirs, and the community that it’s part of, be involved in the process that prevents railway related injuries and deaths.” On why railway safety is important to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities: “Ultimately, municipalities are the most direct public entity responsible for public safety at a local level. Municipalities deal with land use planning, roadways and are responsible as first responders to emergencies, including incidents related to railways. It’s in the interest of the municipal sector to stay in front of trends and issues that may impact rail safety – and to have an active voice in addressing some of the challenges that still exist for road and rail safety.” On how his role with the Advisory Committee involves two of the “Three E’s”: “Education is the most direct area of my involvement. But I’m also involved with the enforcement side. Enforcement involves municipal bylaws, as well as policies and procedures that can help promote rail safety. In that sense, I’m on the committee to make sure that the issues put forward are looked at from a municipal prospective - that they’re feasible, sufficient and reasonable.” On the importance of the Advisory Committee to communities: “The most important role of the Advisory Committee is to make sure that there are sufficient practices in place to promote railway safety – to make sure that schools, youth groups and other community groups have the information necessary to protect people at the local level. For many community groups, rail safety is not top of mind but it should be. Often, as a legacy of past decisions and necessity, schools and other institutions are located close to railway tracks and crossings.” On the unique advantage that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has in spreading Operation Lifesaver’s message: “We have a substantial membership directory of over 2,000 members, representing over 90 percent of the Canadian population. The communication avenues that we have gets the information out to municipalities, who then communicate the information more broadly through their own networks.” On the sense of accomplishment he gets from being part of the Advisory Committee: “I’m very excited to be a member of the Advisory Committee. I have a great sense that the work we’re doing in the boardroom produces outcomes that are felt in classrooms, at PTA meetings, within community associations. I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction in knowing that the work we do in the Advisory Committee sessions has a direct impact on railway safety.” On the fundamental strength of Operation Lifesaver: “Operation Lifesaver is a good example of how organizations, industry representatives and all levels of government can align their interests in the interest of public safety. It’s an illustration of how stakeholders can work together to find real-world solutions to challenges and it’s a testament to the need for cooperation and partnership.”