Serious pipeline incidents are rare, but companies are ready to cooperate for rapid response


This past August, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) members who operate transmission pipelines collaborated on a joint emergency management exercise (JEME). They practiced enacting the pipeline industry’s mutual emergency assistance agreement (MEAA), a commitment to help each other in case of an emergency.

The MEAA means the knowledge, expertise, equipment and resources of all members are available to one another in the unlikely event of an incident if requested.

 “We are in Ottawa to showcase how the transmission pipeline industry collaborates and prepares for response. We hope to learn and take the learnings to focus our emergency response capabilities across the country,” Chris Bloomer, president and CEO of CEPA, told attendees at the exercise.

This exercise, which government officials and regulators attended, was important for CEPA members to have a solid understanding of the steps involved in enacting MEAA, and to practice those steps. It was also an opportunity for employees to prepare for an emergency scenario, including applying the processes and procedures set out in emergency management plans.


Pipeline incidents are rare

The recent JEME is just one of an average of 400 emergency exercises that CEPA members hold annually—that’s more than one for every day of the year. It’s an important part of reaching the industry’s goal of zero incidents.

While pipeline incidents are rare, CEPA members must be ready to respond quickly. Emergency response exercises are planned and executed to make sure everyone has in-depth training and practice experience with different incident scenarios, equipment and environments. These simulations are crucial in keeping employees’ response skills sharp and ready at a moment’s notice.

There are four types of emergency response exercises that pipeline employees participate in:


 1  Deployment – A full-scale simulation of a real emergency. This includes the actual deployment of emergency response equipment and involvement from first responders and stakeholders. It’s intended to evaluate the coordination of the response in a realistic scenario.


 2  Functional – A functional exercise focuses on evaluating the overall effectiveness of the plans, procedures and functions in emergency response. It includes a simulated deployment of equipment and resources.


 3  Tabletop – This exercise is about testing the plans, procedures and functions of a response in a group-discussion format. Its purpose is to encourage participants to problem solve and identify opportunities for improvement.


 4  Drill – A drill tests a specific function or operation within an emergency event. Participants can practice specific skills, receive equipment or process training, or prepare for a more complex exercise.


Preparation is part of a comprehensive, proactive approach

While preparation is critical, pipeline operators seek to prevent incidents from happening in the first place. That’s why they take a comprehensive and proactive approach to mitigating, preparing for, responding to and managing incidents.

Pipeline operators take a proactive approach by:


➥ Ensuring pipeline infrastructure is well-designed, comprehensively maintained and monitored 24/7


➥ Focusing on third-party damage prevention and education initiatives


➥ Using innovative leak-detection technologies


However, if an incident does occur, they are ready to respond immediately—from the first warning in an actively-monitored control room. In the event of an incident, the pipeline is shut down and the operators focus on protecting the people, environment and assets. They work with first responders and local authorities while communicating essential information to the public.

CEPA members work as long as it takes to return an area to its undisturbed state, including using oil spill containment and recovery equipment, employing clean-up specialists and following the polluter pays model for taking responsibility for an incident.

Knowing what to do in an emergency is critical. For CEPA members, preparation is one of the most important safety measures to ensure readiness in the unlikely event a pipeline incident occurs.

For more information on pipeline emergency management, visit

Published in PIPELINE OBSERVER Fall 2018

Pipeline Observer


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