Getting prepared
Learning to contain spills on the water

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( Jun 07/00) - Learning on the job is all well and good, but relying on experience alone runs counter to one of the fundamentals of effective emergency response -- being prepared.

Preparing to deal with catastrophe before it happens is why members of the Hay River-based Coast Guard, Yellowknife Coast Guard Auxiliary and Yellowknife Fire Department were on the water at the end of Jolliffe Island Saturday.

The focus of the morning on the lake was developing an initial response to fuel spills on the water. The exercise was headed up by Coast Guard district director Jack Kruger.

"We're not trying to profess to be experts at it," said Kruger. "The idea is that people here will have the rudimentary skills to contain a spill until the Coast Guard from Hay River arrives."

Members of the Yellowknife Coast Guard Auxiliary and fire department were shown how to rig and deploy a synthetic boom -- a long, foldable piece of material that would be placed around a spill to contain it. Coast Guard service for Great Slave Lake is based in Hay River. It takes about four hours, in good conditions, for its 40-foot cutter to reach Yellowknife.

"In the interim, a lot can be done in terms of containment," said Dave Robertson, deputy unit leader, operations, for the Yellowknife Coast Guard Auxiliary.

"While the history of spills here has been very small, the potential is very, very strong," said deputy fire Chief Mike Lowing, noting the city's heavy small boat and float plane traffic.

The type of spills the Coast Guard volunteers and the fire department would respond to include those associated with aircraft crashes, vessel fires and shore-based spills that run into the water. Kruger said the Coast Guard is hoping to provide the Inuvik auxiliary with the same training sometime this summer.