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Answering the call

Elite, multi-disciplined and award-winning, Green For Life Environmental (GFL) HAZMAT Emergency Response (ER) service teams are called to hundreds of emergency situations across Canada every year. On a mission to mitigate, their mandate is to right the wrong and normalize the abnormal, with minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

“Clients rely on us to offer immediate response to stabilize a situation, so operation can continue as usual,” said David Hill, National Director of Emergency Response. 

Large or small-scale, situations are often unpredictable, dangerous and pose significant risk to people, property or the environment. Most calls deal with transportation issues and containers that have been compromised, such as tanker spills or train derailments. However, GFL’s ER teams are trained to respond to an array of situations—many of which occur at the last minute and require immediate intervention—involving road, rail and air transportation, inland water bodies, fixed facilities, and even private residences.

It’s a 24/7, 365 operation where no two days are the same.

 “Operational readiness is crucial. Our personnel, equipment, trucks – everything has to be ready at a moment’s notice for when that call comes in, so that there is no delay in our response,” said Shaune Zeleny, Regional Manager of Specialized Services and Emergency Response. “It’s a challenge because we can be as ready as possible, but we never know when the phone’s going to ring, what we’ll be dealing with or how long it will take—that’s just the unique thing about ER.”

With many calls involving dangerous chemicals, toxins and other hazardous materials, GFL is one of the few organizations equipped to manage waste from incident sites without the need for a third party. According to Hill, it’s this full service that really sets the company apart. 

“GFL is a cradle to grave solution,” he said. “This means that with our own in-house waste management services, we’re not only able to respond to an incident, but also receive and treat the waste, and offer complete site rejuvenation.”

Add the fact that GFL is one of only 14 TEAP III-verified Transportation Emergency Response Service Providers in Canada and it’s not surprising that the company is offering some of the most advanced ER solutions in the country. As part of an elite network of service providers who meet this industry standard in emergency preparedness and response, GFL now offers ER services across Canada through its own dedicated teams and partnerships with fellow TEAP III-verified contractors.  

“TEAP III not only approves us as an entity to meet a response need, it also tests our capacity as a company in areas such as safety, leadership and change management,” said Hill. “So our teams really are trained to a very elite level.”

That’s not lip service. This year, GFL’s Saskatoon-based ER team will receive Emergency Response Assistance Canada’s Excellence in Training and Learning Award, for outstanding service and training in flammable liquids response. Zeleny, who leads the team, was also recognized with the Excellence in Leadership Award.

Hill credits much of the ER teams’ success to this exceptional frontline leadership, and both he and Zeleny acknowledge that training plays a critical role in developing accomplished response teams who perform at the highest levels.

“Training’s crucial for us, with the things we deal with,” said Zeleny. “Especially with the more hazardous situations, and when we have to be well-rounded in many different areas to provide effective service, training becomes very important.”

Which is why, when not responding, teams spend a large part of their time training. Depending on the situation and the solution needed, GFL responders are trained to various different levels, and what they can do on the job depends entirely on their training. Primary responders for example are out in the field dealing with dangerous goods and high-risk projects every day and must train to the highest industry standards.

Training may include, but is not limited to, Hazardous Materials Technician, Advanced Tank Car Specialist, Highway Transport Specialist, Chlorine Response and Incident Command. With these many opportunities, GFL responders can train all over North America. 

They also go through live, simulated situations.

“Every year we do training exercises that may include transferring and handling of corrosive liquids, flammable liquids and compressed gases,” said Zeleny. “Responders get the opportunity to handle live product to ensure their preparation for real life situations.”

With decades of experience mitigating all types of environmental emergency, GFL responders are some of the most skilled in Canada—a standard that GFL prides itself on. And as the company’s services continue to grow in scope and sophistication, Hill sees the potential in the future. 

“We have an unbelievable opportunity to prosper throughout Canada,” he said. “This is becoming a sought-after line of business, and especially with our other lines of service and having the cradle to grave capacity, we’re one of the few companies who are answering that call.” 

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