Meet Operation Lifesaver’s Advisory Committee: Read an interview with committee member Bill Walker

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 Bill Walker, President & CEO for Safety Services New Brunswick. Safety Services New Brunswick is the province's leading not-for-profit safety service provider, offering comprehensive training and consulting in occupational, road and community safety. On how long he’s been a member of the Advisory Committee and how he became involved: “I actually haven’t officially attended an Advisory Committee meeting to date because I’ve only recently been appointed to the committee. I certainly fully intend on participating as an active member moving forward. I’m representing Safety Services Canada, a national organization that is made up of all the provincial safety councils across the country. We had discussions with Dan Di Tota last September, at the National Operation Lifesaver Conference, and he was very interested in having our national organization represented on the Advisory Committee.” On the growth opportunities that may result from Safety Services Canada’s presence on the Advisory Committee: “Safety Services New Brunswick works very closely with Operation Lifesaver and is very active in coordinating OL programs in the province. We have a very active committee. Dan and I share the belief that there’s an opportunity for the other provincial safety councils to play a role in coordinating Operation Lifesaver programs in their respective provinces, based on the model that we’re using here in New Brunswick.” On how the Safety Services New Brunswick committee operates: “At our provincial committee we have representation from all the stakeholders. We have four meetings per year. We set up sub-committees to organize things like crossing blitzes, mock collisions and Rail Safety Week activities. We have a coordinator here that makes these things happen. At the start of every year, we create an Action Plan that outlines everything we’re going to do for the year and Operation Lifesaver is given a copy. The Action Plan includes the activities we’re going to do and sets out which problems areas we will be targeting. These are areas where there are problems with trespassing, or where there have been some collisions. At the end of the year, we draw up a report that details what we accomplished.” On how long he’s been involved with Operation Lifesaver: “I’ve been involved with Operation Lifesaver since 2000, when I first began my career with Safety Services New Brunswick. I was Operations Manager at the time and one of my areas of responsibility was the coordination of Operation Lifesaver in the province of New Brunswick. I had a hands-on start with the program and to this day, although I’m not as hands-on as I used to be, I’m very supportive of the program and try to stay involved as much as I can. I attend most of the meetings that occur in our province and I try to get out to as many of the events as I can.” On the history of Safety Services New Brunswick’s involvement with Operation Lifesaver: “Our role has been to coordinate Operation Lifesaver presentations in schools, as well as to coordinate and facilitate presenter training. We’ve been involved in promoting Operation Lifesaver activities in the province, including crossing blitzes, we do an average of six or eight every year, and we were one of the first provinces to coordinate a mock collision. We’ve become very experienced in doing such things over the years. Dan actually used the footage from one of our mock collisions to create an Operation Lifesaver video on how to organize and coordinate a mock collision.” On his personal connection to the railway safety message: “I’ve always been passionate about trains. It’s an interest and a hobby that was passed on to me by my father. I grew up near heavy train traffic here in New Brunswick and I can certainly relate to the Operation Lifesaver message. When I was growing up, we didn’t have this kind of education and training and there wasn’t a lot of trespassing enforcement. I can really appreciate the importance of getting Operation Lifesaver’s message out there. And I think it’s a message that we have to stay on top of. You can’t back off for a minute – it seems to be really challenging to get people to realize the importance of rail safety. A lot of people dismiss it as a non-issue and that’s obviously a big concern.” On the importance of the railway safety message to the province of New Brunswick: “New Brunswick is a fairly rural province and we’ve actually had many of our tracks removed. This makes it hard to get people to appreciate the importance of rail safety. But we continue to have incidents and that’s why it’s so important to continue to promote Operation Lifesaver’s message. Ultimately, the people of New Brunswick will travel and they will come across tracks. If they’re not educated in what to do, that’s where problems will arise.” On what Safety Services Canada will bring to the table going forward: “I know the Advisory Committee is looking to strategically target particular age groups and demographics. This is something that I believe Safety Services Canada will have good information on.”