Fire Fighting in Canada

Features Training
Dangerous goods

March 2016 - Say the words Lac-Megantic and a flood of images, feelings and thoughts come quickly to mind. The July 2013 train derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Que., was a watershed event in Canada, particularly as it relates to the transportation of flammable liquids and the regulations, policies and actions that producers, shippers and consignors must now consider.

February 24, 2016 
By Ken McMullen

Emergency Response Assistance Canada created a separate division to meet the needs of industry after Transport Canada issued protective directive 33 ERAC's Ken McMullen explains what firefighters should know about responses to flammable-liquids emergencies.

The incident, with its devastating loss of life and property damage, more than any other in Canadian history, has brought the reality of dangerous goods transport to the minds of government, the public and first responders. As a result, change has come to the transportation of dangerous goods in Canada.

One of the key components of this change is the protective directive 33, which requires producers, consignors and shippers to register an emergeny-response assistance plan (ERAP) with Transport Canada if so required by regulation. Part 7 of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act requires that there be an approved ERAP before offering for transport or importing certain dangerous goods above a quantity specified in column 7 of schedule I of the transport of dangerous goods (TDG) regulations. If no number (or reference to a special provision) appears in column 7 – schedule 1, an ERAP is not required. If a number appears in column 7 of schedule I, then the shipper must adhere to the requirements of section 7.1 of the TDG regulations.

What is ERAC and what does it do for first responders? Emergency Response Assistance Canada (ERAC) responded to post Lac-Megantic changes in order to seek and develop continuous improvements in its safety and quality response system. Now, in addition to liquid-petroleum gas (LPG), ERAC has developed a separate division to meet the needs of industry with respect to the Transport Canada protective directive 33.

As a non-profit corporation, created by industry stakeholders, ERAC’s focus has been on the achievement of one objective only – to provide Canada’s best response capability for LPG and flammable-liquids-related incidents. Consequently, ERAC is instrumental in helping hundreds of companies, large and small, meet the strict regulatory requirements for an emergency-response assistance plan.


ERAC has experts in designing emergency plans, managing the documentation and, most of all, activating those plans whenever and wherever needed. Using the most highly trained and skilled responders and industry best practices and equipment, ERAC has prepared for any LPG or flammable liquids emergency. Operating 24/7 from coast to coast and offshore in Canadian territorial waters (LPG only), ERAC is ready to help its members keep their companies, communites and clients safe. ERAC manages emergency-response assistance plans for more than 300 plan participants from the LPG and flammable-liquids industries, which include wholesalers, producers, transporters and retailers.

ERAPs are specifically designed to address management of goods within class 3 flammable liquids (packing groups 1 and 2) in the event of a transportation accident. The plans define roles and responsibilities, required equipment, notification, documentation, responder expertise and response details. The plans further address emergency preparedness, personnel and team training, response exercises, assessment and how equipment must be serviced and maintained. ERAPs supplement the emergency response plans of the carriers and of the local and provincial authorities, and they must be integrated with other organizations’ protocols to help mitigate the consequences of an accident. This integration is usually accomplished by working within an incident-management system.

■ Role and responsibility
ERAC’s role is to provide stakeholders, plan participants, response teams and their personnel – along with municipal first-responders – with assistance. The assistance includes providing technical advisors, remedial measures advisors, response team leaders and home-based co-ordinators who possess the means (equipment, training) and the knowledge and systems (notification, dispatch, co-ordination and response) to successfully manage, control and contain incidents involving road, rail and stationary tanks and containers.

As Canada’s LPG emergency-response provider, ERAC provides emergency response to plan participants who transport certain products by road or rail, or those who store these products in tanks with capacities of 450 litres or greater. These products are gases at standard temperatures and pressure:

  • Propane (UN1978)
  • Butane (UN1011)
  • Propylene (UN1077)
  • Butylene (UN1012)
  • Isobutene (UN1969)
  • Isobutylene (UN1055)

It is recognized that these products may contain a concentration of condensate and/or minute quantities of other elements including hydrogen sulphide. Under the plan, response is also provided to emergencies involving Butadiene – 1, 3 (stabilized) (UN1010).

In addition to LPG, ERAC responds to the following flammable-liquids incidents (transported by rail only):

  • UN1170 Ethanol
  • UN1202 Diesel fuel
  • UN1203 Gasoline
  • UN1267 Petroleum crude oil
  • UN1268 Petroleum distillates N.O.S.
  • UN1863 Fuel aviation, turbine engine
  • UN1987 Alcohols, N.O.S.
  • UN1993 Flammable liquid, N.O.S.
  • UN3295 Hydrocarbons, liquid, N.O.S.
  • UN3475 Ethanol and gasoline mixture
  • UN3494 Petroleum sour crude oil, flammable, toxic

■ Training
Training and the development of expertise are at the core of what ERAC is and does. ERAC, in concert with its educational partners, offers training to municipal fire services (at cost – ERAC is a non-profit organization) in order to improve knowledge and understanding of the risks and challenges that flammable liquids and liquid petroleum gases pose to municipalities, fire services and personnel.

This year, ERAC will offer first responder LPG awareness training (online) as well as Level 1 LPG firefighting training at five locations across Canada in order to provide first responders with the necessary understanding and hands-on training to help ensure their health and safety when responding to these specific dangerous-goods products.

Classes began in the fall of 2015 within Ontario and will branch out across the country this spring. The Level 1 training prepares first responders with the information, knowledge, exposure and hands-on skills that they will require in order to become proficient and further expand their training to Level 2 programming, now available through ERAC’s partner the Emergency Services Training Centre in Blyth, Ont. ERAC’s online firefighter LPG-awareness program will also be available online in the spring and will become the precedent for Level 1 training.

■ Responses and locations
ERAC contracts 21 specialized response teams across Canada, which respond to a wide range of flammable-liquid or liquid-petroleum emergencies. Regardless of the location of the emergency, the mode of transport or the size and complexity of the incident (beyond 450 litres), ERAC’s experts in control and containment provide advice to shippers, consignors, producers and incident commanders. Damage assessment, air monitoring, extinguishment, spill control, bonding and grounding, transfer, flaring, purging of containers and the continuous provision of advice related to the control and management of incidents is ERAC’s forte. However, ERAC not only responds to LPG and flammable liquids fires and leaks, it provides firefighting expertise, product knowledge and technical assistance to first responders as part of its outreach and educational plan.

As part of this outreach and educational plan, ERAC uses four purpose-built firefighting trailers (which will expand to six this year) to assist in fire containment, cooling and extinguishment. These trailers are designed specifically to fight and suppress flammable-liquid fires utilizing AR-AFFF and AFFF foam and to cool LPG railcars during incidents involving fires.

This year, ERAC will add new rail and road prop training trailers to the firefighting trailers that enable ERAC to offer Level 1 training to first responders across Canada, in addition to providing municipal and industrial fire teams with firefighting equipment, training and expertise.

■ Continuous improvement
Fire fighting is more than simply responding when the phone rings; it requires a thorough understanding of tactics, products and their characteristics and properties and the best application methods and practices required to successfully contain, extinguish fires and mitigate risks. Understanding comes about through transferring learning as knowledge to first-responder personnel and determining if this knowledge transfer has improved competence.

ERAC strives to continuously improve the knowledge of its people and the methods, processes and procedures it uses to meet its goals and objectives. ERAC maintains a strict compliance regimen for its response personnel, technical advisors, remedial-measures specialists, team leaders and home-based co-ordinators. Ensuring this level of knowledge and invigilation is meant to assure stakeholders that ERAC personnel possess all the necessary skill and expertise to safely engage any emergency involving LPG and flammable liquids.

If your municipality would like to obtain LPG training, contact me.

Ken McMullen is the manager  of safety and quality improvement for Emergency Response Assistance Canada. Contact him at

Print this page


Stories continue below