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S.A.D.S. Exercise 2003

On Sunday, October 26th at 8:35 in the morning a car attempting to pass a tank truck in the eastbound lanes of the Bluewater Bridge, lost control and slammed into the tanker, sliding under the tank frame and trapping the two occupants of the car. The tanker was loaded with styrene monomer, a highly flammable substance with a low flash point.

Fortunately, the tank did not leak as a result of the collision, however the very nature of this substance created potential problems for emergency response personnel.

Traffic was immediately stopped on the bridges and a CVECO code 8 was sounded by the Bluewater Bridge Authority.who are a CVECO member.

First response was from the Point Edward Fire Dept. who became the Incident Command authority because it was in their region. Upon arriving the Pt Edward platoon chief upgraded the CVECO code to a 5 which brought Sarnia & Port Huron and CVECO industrial brigades ( if required) into the situation.

As with any emergency situation, unforseen problems can occur. In this case identification of the trucks contents, normally done by sighting the hazard placard could not be achieved either through the bridge cameras or by the use of binoculars because of vehicles stopped in front of the truck. and sightings from the side were difficult because of the location high above grade level. This aspect of the response is critical in order to avoid putting emergency responders at undue risk. A sighting was achieved from the ground with binoculars and the Platoon Chief and crew then proceeded slowly up the bridge to the curve where the fire fighting began.

Just prior to proceeding up the bridge, Sarnia FD were dispatched to the "dry hydrant" at ground level which allows a pumper to suction water from the river and pump it up one of several standpipes to the road level of the bridge. Meanwhile, Port Huron FD pumper proceeded cautiously from the US side in order to connect to the standpipe and be able to provide water if required. This situation was compounded by the fact that different hose thread couplings are used in the US. Fortunately Port Huron, as well as Sarnia carry adapter fittings for just such a situation.

From the beginning of the incident, a command post was established in the office of the Bluewater Bridge Operations Manager..The Operations manager and the Pt. Edward Fire Chief became what CVECO refers to as "Unified Command." This office is equipped for this purpose with TV monitors and radio communications. This command post became the center for communications in a situation involving many agencies operating on various frequencies. In this incident alone there were the following agencies; Point Edward Fire &Rescue, Port Huron Fire Dept., Sarnia Fire & Rescue, Lambton EMS, Port Huron Tri Hospitals, Bluewater Bridge Authority, CVECO, Ontario Provincial Police and Preferred Towing.

The fire was extinguished by Point Edward volunteers and rescue of the victims began using extrication equipment. Waiting to remove and transport the victims to hospital were both Lambton EMS and if required Port Huron Tri Hospitals vehicles and personnel. As this was a simulation, newer members of Lambton EMS staff were utilized to provide training.

Upon removal of the victims, the tanker truck was driven to the containment compound on the Canadian side of the bridge. This area is equipped with a drainage containment system in the event of spills. At this point the truck driver approached the truck in order to check all valves. In doing so he inadvertently opened a valve and was splashed with the contents. Sarnia Fire Departments newly formed HazMet team was called into action to provide decontamination for the driver. At this point, in an attempt to provide a dyke to contain the spill, six other fire fighters became contaminated and also required decontamination.

Upon completion of the exercise, the agencies Chiefs and a number of trained observers and evaluators met at the Point Edward Fire Hall to do an initial evaluation. After this session, each Chief was to return to their halls and utilizing the experiences of their team members, critique their own operation. When this is done, a meeting of the participants and their lessons learned will be held and a final report constructed.

In summary, it was a very detailed and realistic scenario involving many agencies and it met it’s objective of fire extinguishment, rescue and spill containment while at all times preventing ignition of the trucks cargo and preventing injuries to emergency personnel.

Lessons Learned:

  • Adjustments to cameras needed to facilitate placard identification.
  • Drops in lake levels since construction of the bridge have left the intake line for the "dry hydrant" in too shallow a position. A vortex forms which jeopardizes pumping volume.
  • The bridge fire water standpipes work as designed and pumping capacity of FD pumper is more than adaquate to suppy water over 100" up to the bridge.
  • Adapters for different standard hose lines do work and are carried at all times on emergency vehicles.
  • The Command post for the bridge is well equipped to handle a situation of this magnitude.
  • Improvements required in communications between agency chiefs and the strict adherence to the protocols outlined in the CVECO unified command manual.
  • Better staffing of the mobile command post vehicle ( in the containment area of the compound) by sector chiefs needs improvement.
  • Newly formed Hazmet team of the Sarnia FD performed well at their first call out. Minor improvements to equipment required.
  • Media personnel were sucessfully transported to the scene and controlled for their own safety.
  • Bluewater Bridge Authority were efficient in stopping traffic and facilitating two way traffic in under 20 minutes.

There will no doubt be additions to this list when agency self critiques are completed. These will be both positive and negative, however one overiding fact remains, the areas emergency responders are well trained and have the necessary equipment and organization to deal sucessfully with complicated situations. Each group consistently performs simulations by themselves and once a year a Sarnia Area Disaster Simulation is carried out to confirm the areas readiness to protect lives and the community.

Special Thanks this year to the many well trained volunteers from Point Edward Fire & Rescue who designed the scenario, took command and successfully rescued and contained a dangerous situation.

2004 CAER.CA