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Flood Relief Efforts On-Track


As the Saint John river swelled to historic heights in early May, NBM Railways partnered with the city’s Emergency Management Organization (EMO) and first responders to offer evacuation support and provide sandbags to hard-hit areas in West Saint John, Grand Bay and Westfield. 

On May 2, the EMO approached Lorrie Johnston, Logistics Coordinator at NBM, asking for an emergency vehicle that could travel by rail to assist residents cut-off from main roads. The railway ended up providing two high-rail trucks, on call 24/7, and an evacuation shuttle which made daytime trips Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Friday afternoon, employees at the company’s west side office filled over 1,000 sandbags onsite and delivered them to in-need residents. 



“This is the first time we’ve had any type of involvement with emergency rescue. It’s the first time I’ve been involved, and I’ve been with the railway for 21 years,” says Johnston. “Having the ability to use the train, because of where it’s structurally located is incredible. I don’t know of any other locations across Canada that have been able to assist in this way.”

Working as a team the EMO, police and railway employees developed a tactical plan to best meet the needs of the people affected and support ongoing public safety efforts. Volunteer first responders travelled on the evacuation train, and once evacuees arrived in Saint John, they were bussed to a temporary Red Cross shelter. 

“This has been a great asset offered up to us through NBM Railways…it would take more logistics, more people and more vehicles otherwise,” comments police Sgt. Greg Oram, who accompanied the train, “This harkens back to old times too. I haven’t been on a train in many, many years, but this is how people used to travel, so there’s an added layer of meaning here.”

Stephanie Fallon boarded the train with her husband and two young children on Friday afternoon. “There have been lots of neighbours helping us. It’s been great. Everyone’s been helping,” she said. Fallon works in Saint John and her husband attends Eastern College in the city. The train was the only way they could safely bypass floodwaters prior to Sunday. 

Over the weekend, volunteers from NBM Railways and other JDI companies came together to assist with flood relief efforts.  Over 150 employee volunteers worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday to fill over 122,000 sand bags that were dispatched by 30 trucks to neighbours in need in Hampton, Quispamsis, Rothesay, Saint John and Grand Bay.  EMO officials were also provided helicopter support in completing aerial surveys of flooded areas.  In Chipman, the company helped keep the pharmacy open by airlifting in the pharmacist.

“Our employees are stepping up [to volunteer]. They’ve been working their day job and staying to help in the evenings, giving back to their communities,” says Johnston. “People want to and are willing to help. They have a true sense of care and want everyone to be safe. I think that’s what we’re about in our community and the Maritimes – we’re known to step up and help each other.”