Training and Improved Communications Prepare City for Disasters

Emergency training, exercises and new communications protocols have been in the works this year to improve how Port Coquitlam and other agencies manage large disasters.

Part of the city’s ongoing emergency preparedness (EP) efforts, the improvements are both a response to the Jan. 22 collision of a train and tanker truck at the Canadian Pacific Rail yard, and a $25,000 grant the city received through the Union of BC Municipalities, from the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund of the provincial 2018 Emergency Operations Centres & Training Program.

“The safety of our residents is paramount, and the most important result from Jan. 22 is that no one was injured. That being said, there are always things we can do better and it’s important that we learn from every event,” Mayor Greg Moore said. “The UBCM grant will help us undertake in-depth crisis communications training, which dovetails well with our other emergency preparedness work.”

The city’s EP program emphasizes continual improvement. Tabletop exercises, training and information-sharing take place regularly with CP Rail, Coquitlam RCMP and other agencies. Debriefings are required after every activation of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), a central support centre for large scale emergencies. The City has also been working with CP Rail over the years to synergize communication protocols and response efforts.

Based on a debriefing following the Jan. 22 incident, the key success was the committed response by all agencies involved, resulting in no injuries to responders or civilians. Initial hazards were unknown, so the RCMP had acted early to evacuate businesses in the area.

Other noted successes:

  • Rapid response by Port Coquitlam fire crews;
  • Effective real-time communications from the Command Post to the RCMP station;
  • Coordination with CP staff once the Command Post was established; and
  • CP’s ability to identify the hazardous goods from site cameras via their hazardous materials specialist and technology.

Activities under way to improve the response in the future include:

  • Table-top exercises with CP Rail in October aimed to improve inter-agency communication;
  • CP Rail’s addition of rail yard resources such as foam and some firefighting equipment, and other improved procedures;
  • Improved familiarization by Port Coquitlam fire crews of the rail yards and on-site foam locations through an enhanced yard map, tours and inspections;
  • Updates to Port Coquitlam’s Crisis Communication Plan and procedures based on this event, including earlier setup of a media centre to improve media access;
  • Review of EOC protocols; and
  • Crisis communications training for the city’s EOC staff.

Coquitlam RCMP also viewed the Jan. 22 event as a learning opportunity. For example, additional training in Incident Command Systems has already taken place, including a reinforced focus on placing an RCMP incident commander on scene as soon as possible, to improve communication and information-sharing between agencies.

“Moving forward, we continue to work on improving communications with the fire department,” said Cpl. Michael McLaughlinfrom Coquitlam RCMP.“The improvements we’re making will help clear up confusion about evacuations, facilitate joint media and social media statements, and help translate and confirm the rapidly-incoming and ever-changing information.”

For more information about the City’s emergency preparedness resources, visit

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Kristen Dixon
Chief Administrative Officer
City of Port Coquitlam
Tel.: 604-927-5414