Heartland 101

FEBRUARY 2024

Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Designated Emergency Planning Zones

Emergency planning zones (EPZs) are much more than just lines on a map—they represent a blueprint for action in the face of an emergency.

EPZs play a critical role in safeguarding communities near industrial facilities, providing a vital framework for coordinated response efforts in an emergency.

What’s an EPZ?

Industries regulated by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) must comply with Directive 071. This sets out the requirements for emergency preparedness and response for sites regulated under the:

  • Oil and Gas Conservation Act
  • Pipeline Act
  • Oil Sands Conservation Act
  • Geothermal Resource Development Act

In creating their emergency response plans, companies must determine an EPZ, or the distance outward from a facility where people and the environment could be affected by a potential worst-case incident. Distances vary and are calculated based on the type of facility, product and whether it is in gas or liquid form, as well as volume and release rates.

Directive 071 also requires companies to have a Public Involvement Program, where companies directly consult with all people residing within an EPZ to seek their input when it creates its emergency response plan. That means if you live in an EPZ you will be contacted directly by the company. They provide an information package to residents in their EPZ containing an explanation of the proposed or existing operation, the impact a potential emergency may have on them, the procedures in place to respond to an emergency, and public protection measures.

Ground truthing and what it means to you

As part of a company’s Public Involvement Program, they employ a process known as ground truthing to obtain the following information:

  • exact location of the residence, place of business, or public facility, including egress route issues (legal description or address);
  • name of key contact and a 24-hour contact telephone number (home, business, cell phone, or other) and an alternate contact, if possible;
  • names of all family members in residence;
  • number of occupants, specifying adults and preschool and school-age children;
  • names of those with special needs or specific requirements; the licensee representative is expected to inform members of the public that they can be considered to have special needs and require early notification or evacuation without having to divulge their personal health issues;
  • any additional concerns or comments; and
  • any other information deemed necessary to allow for effective emergency response procedures to be developed.
  • Companies conduct ground truthing every two years to confirm or update the above information, and keep their emergency response plans current.

Looking for more information?

To learn more about Directive 071, emergency planning zones, public involvement programs and regulations, visit https://static.aer.ca/prd/documents/directives/Directive071.pdf

Night scene of a heavy Industrial Chemical  plant with mazework of pipes in twilight

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