Bridge-Tunnel: well-oiled response protocols

incendie-vehicule-recreatif-donne-occasionA movement that turns into a nightmare, the evacuations, a little panic … but nothing more serious: a fire in a recreational vehicle yesterday morning in the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel provides an opportunity to turn the spotlight on intervention protocols in the tunnel. Protocols kept secret for security reasons … but nevertheless we say well oiled.

“As the tunnel La Fontaine is a closed space, causing additional challenges, it is even more critical. The Fire Department of Montreal and the Ministry of Transport of Quebec are working together to develop and implement action of response protocols, as it’s been the case this morning, “explained yesterday Mario St-Pierre, spokesman MTQ.

The MTQ refuses to reveal details of the plans to avoid giving information to people who are malicious. The exact tunnel plans are also kept secret. But interviewing various stakeholders, La Presse has nevertheless been able to understand certain elements.

Fire brigade

Besides the MTQ, the Sûreté du Québec, Montreal firefighters and paramedics Longueuil and Montreal and the South Shore all have their role to play in case of problems in the tunnel.

Each has specific tasks. Firefighters, for example, the tunnel divided into two zones – one under the control of Montreal, the other under that of Longueuil. Yesterday, the accident occurred in the Montreal section of the tunnel.

“In this case, we take control of operations, and fire Longueuil are in support. If it’s in the part of Longueuil, the opposite is true. There is a portion in the middle of the tunnel which has not been divided. In this area, it is the first to arrive that direct operations, “explains Pierre Lévesque, Deputy Director, Operational Support, the Fire Department of Montreal.

Paramedics say proceed differently.

“Normally if the accident occurs in the eastbound lanes of Montreal, is the South Shore who intervenes. If it happens to the South Shore, it’s us. The goal is to arrive in the right direction, “says Stephen Smith, spokesman for Urgences-santé in Montreal.

Emergency vehicles, however, not to go the entire tunnel turn around. There are many numbered doors that allow to go from one direction to another.

Yesterday, ambulances do not have to enter the tunnel. Teams were posted at every entrance, ready to intervene in case of emergency.

“Unless there is a situation where every minute counts, it is easier for us to stay at the entrance and leads us to expect that the wounded,” said Smith.

Ministry of Transportation

This is the MTQ which acts as conductor and coordinates all stakeholders. Emergency vehicles wanting to enter the tunnel should ensure they have a clear path and will have the necessary room to maneuver, especially if they decide to run at full speed in the opposite direction of traffic.

“One of the first things we do is to send a representative of the MTQ SQ control center”, explained yesterday the Sûreté du Québec.

The priority stakeholders is to ensure the safety of road users. Yesterday, they had to get out of their vehicle. They were asked to go to the center tunnel, between the paths to Montreal and those that lead to the South Shore, where a lock. From here it is possible to evacuate the tunnel on foot by evacuation corridors leading to two output turns. One is located in the Ile Charron and the other on Rue Notre-Dame in Montreal.

The MTQ has a communication system to reassure and direct people in an emergency. He said also monitor all the installations of the tunnel round the clock with cameras that are scanned by people trained for this purpose.

The tunnel is equipped with several separate ventilation systems.

“We follow international standards and allow our systems to avoid exposing people who are in the tunnel to fumes or toxic gases by manipulating very powerful fans,” said Mario St-Pierre, MTQ.

Firefighters, they have access to several “fire cabinets” out of the tunnel, which house hydrants, pumps and generators.

– With Teisceira-Philippe Lessard and Louis-Samuel Perron

Transportation of petroleum products in the tunnel
The fire yesterday was caused by the explosion of propane tanks in a recreational vehicle. According to information circulating yesterday, the vehicle carrying propane much more than allowed.

Here’s what you should know if you plan to lug your BBQ or cylinder gas cans in a tunnel in Quebec.

Flammable gases (such as butane or propane)

It is forbidden to carry a bottle of more than 46 liters.
It is forbidden to carry more than two bottles, regardless of their ability.
The permitted maximum: two bottles of 46 liters each.
If you carry the bottles in your car, a window must be ajar. If the bottles are in the trunk of the car, it must also be ajar.
Flammable liquid such as diesel or gasoline.
It is forbidden to carry more than 30 liters. The liquid may be in a single container or more without limit to the number.

The Stopru