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Emergency preparedness a top priority for industry and municipalities

LAKELAND - A focus on safety and emergency preparedness continues to be a top priority for industry and municipalities.
Emergency preparedness is a priority for industry and municipalities. File photo.

LAKELAND - A focus on safety and emergency preparedness continues to be a top priority for industry and municipalities.  

Tervita Corporation operates a handful of facilities in the region, and continues to be focused on not only keep its own employees and assets safe, but those of the communities around them also.  

Tervita operates a Treatment, Recovery and Disposal (TRD) facility south of Elk Point, along with a cavern disposal facility near Lindbergh. In the Bonnyville region, Tervita operates a Class II Industrial Landfill, accepting a variety of industrial waste. 

“Tervita has always operated its business under the premise that emergency preparedness and emergency response are critical elements to a successful safety program and key to being a good neighbour,” says Kelly Sansom, communications and marketing with Tervita Corporation. 

“This philosophy ensures that in the event of an emergency, things will go as smoothly as possible to protect Tervita’s employees, the communities we operate in, the environment, and our assets.” 

Employees at Tervita are trained in emergency response, firefighting, and first aid. Table-top and mock emergency drills are also done on a regular basis. Key employees are trained at operating locations, and in the corporate office are trained in the Incident Command System (ICS), which is the same system that municipalities, provinces and regulatory agencies are trained in. 

“Maintaining a relationship with all of our industry partners is extremely important, and is paramount that this happens prior to an emergency exists, and not during one,” says Trevor Kotowich, Regional Director of Emergency Management for the St. Paul area, when asked about the relationship between municipalities and industry. 

“Annually, many area industry agencies have the fire department review their emergency response plans, and ensure they are consistent with fire department operating procedures. Many are inspected annually by the fire department, where relationships are formed and alliances are made as to how best approach any type of incident,” says Kotowich. “Many of the larger industry agencies have their own response protocol and procedures, and more often than not, the fire department is there to supplement.” 

Kotowich adds, “If large incidents do occur, we will rely on mutual aid partners from surrounding counties, along with private industry responders who can be called upon should the situation dictate.” 

Meeting with partners is important, although since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been more of a challenge, says Kotowich. 

According to Sansom, Tervita is always willing to work with municipalities to prepare for large scale emergencies, although, to date this type of planning interaction has been mostly informal. 

 She says municipal partners are invited to tour Tervita sites, by appointment.  

Speaking specifically to one incident where cooperation was shown between industry and a local fire department, Sansom describes a situation a couple years ago when the Tervita Elk Point facility assisted the municipality with managing a non-Tervita related grass fire by supplying the fire department with water to help with firefighting. 

Other examples of Tervita lending its expertise include a situation in Swift Current were the waste services team responded to a HAZMAT request from the City of Swift Current Fire Department.  

“The request was to aid in handling, classifying, packaging, labeling, transportation and disposal of approximately 150 kg of caustic solids that were found in a park in Swift Current,” explains Sansom. 

“Tervita also supports the RCMP and other municipal officials when clandestine drug labs need to be safely disassembled and cleaned up. Since these labs have unmarked and highly reactive and volatile chemicals, it is critical that trained personnel perform this type of work,” she adds. “When trained and experienced professionals proactively deal with these types of situations the community benefits.” 

When asked if the pandemic has affected how Tervita approaches emergency preparedness, Sansom says, “Since Trevita’s field operations were deemed essential services at the start of the pandemic, nothing has significantly changed within our day-to-day operations, other than we are operating under our COVID-19 Operations Business Continuity Plan.” 

This plan aims to mitigate exposure of the virus through physical distancing, the use of masks, hand washing, and eliminating non-essential activities. The plan has been updated three times since being implemented in March.