Life can change in an instant. That’s why, as part of our commitment to workplace safety, we support trained Emergency Response Teams that are always onsite and ready to serve at each of our pulp and paper mills.
They’re the unsung heroes of our operations: volunteers who, in addition to their day jobs at our facilities, attend regular emergency situation training sessions and maintain numerous qualifications related to fire and rescue, hazardous materials and medical first response. Some are even certified paramedics.
All Emergency Response Teams are staffed around the clock to ensure adequate coverage on each shift. As Tony Casilio, Johnsonburg Mill’s environment, health and safety manager, puts it, they want to be the ones running toward an emergency when others are running away.
Every Second Counts in an Emergency
“It’s comforting for employees to know they always have qualified teammates close by,” says Larry Warren, safety director for our Pulp and Paper Division. “At some of our more rural sites, proximity can drastically improve response times, which is especially important in situations when seconds matter.”
Our Ashdown Mill colleagues recently experienced firsthand how critical a quick response is when someone’s life is on the line. Earlier this summer, an employee collapsed and began having a cardiac event. His supervisor was nearby and immediately notified the mill’s Emergency Response Team. Two team members arrived quickly and found the employee unresponsive. They performed CPR and then used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to deliver a lifesaving shock.
“The quicker you can get to something, the less chance you have of it getting out of hand,” says Marlboro Mill Health and Safety Manager Monty Batchelor. He says that’s true of medical incidents and of fire or other emergencies, where quick responses can significantly reduce the severity of the event, as well as the risk of costly repairs or lost production from damaged equipment.
Emergency Response Teams Partner with First Responders
Our Emergency Response Teams’ efforts aren’t limited to our mills. They’re also frequent partners with local fire and emergency crews. For example, Dryden Mill Emergency Response Team Manager Mike Parr says the team maintains a close partnership with the local fire department and collaborates on training where they can share specialized expertise, such as how to handle hazardous material emergencies in accordance with the new Canadian Environmental Emergency Regulations established in 2019.
Warren says specialized training is also invaluable when mills need to develop specific response plans. “The fact that they’re trained to know what can happen and how to respond may help avoid the likelihood of that specific incident happening in the first place.”
Pandemic Precautions Increase Safety
Proactive planning is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kamloops Mill Health and Safety Manager Lisa Durack says the mill’s emergency response team has gone to great lengths to focus on precautions that help keep everyone safe during training exercises and to ensure those practices are applied when responding to incidents.
“Although it’s easy to say to use these precautions when appropriate, implementing them can be challenging during training or at an actual emergency,” Durack says. “Our team’s biggest success factor is members watching out for each other and coaching each other to follow these requirements.”
Bill Edwards, vice president for operations in Pulp & Paper, says the entire Domtar leadership team is grateful for our Emergency Response Teams’ commitment to their colleagues and community.
“Their service and tireless dedication is invaluable in keeping our employees safe,” he says. “They take great pride in always being prepared to respond in any type of emergency situation, and they are at their best when called upon to help a colleague in need. We are thankful for their commitment and the great job they do every day.”