Atlantic Canada/New England Haz Mat Response

Canada benefits significantly as a result of trade with the U.S. through export points in Atlantic Canada including land (road, rail, pipelines and power grids), sea and air. While federal presence exists through organizations like CBSA, RCMP and Transport Canada to provide most of the regulatory monitoring and enforcement of imports, there are limited activities facilitating the flow of exports. Emergency response by specialized technical services such as Hazardous Material (HazMat) in most of Canada is in fact provided by city based response units which, in the case of Atlantic Canada, respond in support of federal, provincial and local jurisdictions under various agreements. More than 10 years ago the Council of Atlantic Premiers and also a similar group of New England Governors recognized the need for an agreement to respond to many different scenarios of shared interest and obligation including HazMat incidents under the International Emergency Management Assistance Compact (IEMAC).

During work to test risk assessment and capability-based preparedness measurement methods in Atlantic Canada between 2010 and 2012 the resultant risk scenarios amplified the importance of the flow of goods and services through national and international infrastructure in Eastern Canada. It also became apparent that there was insufficient economic evidence available to decide what level of service needed to be provided by emergency responders in support of this significant block of trade. While solutions to providing evidence for an economic basis for response were begun, another influence directed attention to examining the possibility of an Atlantic Region HazMat response rather than attempting a province by province solution. This model is one scale up from the current New Brunswick provincial plan which provides for province wide HazMat response through provincial contract with two city services. An inventory of existing HazMat assets was completed for all four provinces along with a briefing note to the Council of Atlantic Premiers (CAP) documenting the possibility of an Atlantic response and one which could build interoperability with New England States under the IEMAC. The CAP supported the concept and endorsed follow-up work to create a concept plan for further consideration by them and the International Emergency Management Group which manages the IEMAC. Following this direction, bi-lateral meetings with the New England HazMat group aided in establishing the status of administrative and operational interoperability.

The primary objective of this project was to operationalize a concept of emergency response to Haz Mat incidents in Atlantic Canada through a single comprehensive plan and prepare for validation and verification that that this approach works. The project will also document the cost of providing this response and develop an initial funding formula for cost sharing across the partners pending endorsement by official governance.

The second objective of this project was to create, maintain and test interoperability with New England HazMat response through analysis and adaptation to common administrative practices, response planning, technical analysis and at least one table-top exercise.

The third objective of this project is to provide real time asset and deployment information of HazMatteams to provincial emergency operations centers with one center providing scaled response management.

An overarching theme of all objectives was to discover the level of service which is reasonably commensurate with the risk and plan for that response at the local, regional and international scaled response which it supports.

The example set by this project drove the analysis of Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) and response team gaps in situational awareness and coordination for major incident management. The Atlantic HazMat response plan will provide for the policy and administrative reporting to EOCs as a matter of routine management and also protocols for emergency response and coordination by the EOCs once the plan is triggered by an Atlantic Canada incident or one in support of the IEMAC. Administrative, operational and issues of responder health and safety are an integral component of the interoperability analysis and verification in this project.

The Atlantic Canada HazMat response plan and the IEMAC provide for mutual aid in response to any border crossing during emergencies with the goal of rapid remediation and restoration of infrastructure following the protection of life. Based on trade volume evidence, planning must focus on land-based trade routes however also included in the planning will be response to air and sea based routes as well. While there is basic HazMat capability at larger airports, seaports rely exclusively on local and provincial HazMat capability.

About the author:

Mark leads the ESI team in conducting risk assessments, training, program, and plan review, exercise scenario development, exercise facilitation, and evaluation as well as compiling final After Action Review documentation and recommendations. Under Mark’s leadership, there have been six (6) Federal research and development projects conceived and executed by the ESI team. Service has been provided for various critical infrastructures, such as Port Saint John, Point Lepreau Generating Station, Canaport Liquefied Natural Gas, Saint John Energy, as well as corporations like Atlantic Potash, Mead Johnson Nutrition, and the Mosaic Company.