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Chemical Safety Board video showcases first response lessons learned (6/17)

June 17, 2009
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The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) today released a new safety video showing the need for emergency response agencies, companies, and communities to work closely together to prepare for the kinds of tragic chemical accidents the CSB has investigated over the past decade.

The new video, entitled “Emergency Preparedness: Findings from CSB Accident Investigations,” uses computer animations, interviews, and news footage to depict a series of chemical accidents that illustrate the need for effective training, communications, and community planning. In some incidents, firefighters and police were overcome by toxic chemicals and forced to retreat from neighborhoods; in others, firefighters and workers were tragically killed and others injured.

The video is available online atwww.csb.gov. It can be ordered free of charge on a new two-DVD set of all CSB safety videos by filling out the request form in the Video Room ofwww.csb.gov

In the video, CSB Chairman John Bresland notes, “Preparations by companies, emergency responders, government authorities, and the public are critical to reducing injuries and saving lives. It’s not only important to be prepared, but everyone must communicate, have an up-to-date plan in place and practice that plan regularly. We hope that our findings will help keep communities safe.”

In addition to comments by CSB investigators and board members, the video features observations by fire chiefs, a state fire marshal, and an expert on emergency preparedness and local emergency planning.

Danvers, Massachusetts, Fire Chief James P. Tutko, who led the effort to battle a massive fire and explosion at an ink plant in 2006, and oversaw the community evacuation, said he recommends “Emergency Preparedness” as well as other CSB safety videos. “I can recommend CSB safety videos for their content and accuracy. They can be used for all aspects of emergency response training,” Chief Tutko said, adding, “Don’t wait for an accident in your jurisdiction to learn about the CSB’s findings.”

The video begins with an animation of a boiling liquid expansion vapor explosion, or BLEVE, in a large propane tank that killed two firefighters and injured seven others in a 1998 accident in Albert City, Iowa. The firefighters had not received accurate training or guidance on BLEVE hazards and approached within 100 feet of the burning tank when it suddenly blew apart.

“The Herrig Brothers farm explosion animation provides a tragic but important starting point for the video,” said Board Member William Wark. “Every day firefighters face challenges like these and sadly, sometimes lose their lives. We hope the video will make the case that training and communication are critical so that responders can do their jobs without death or injury.”

Another propane explosion seen in the video – which destroyed a convenience store and killed two propane service technicians, a volunteer fire captain, and an EMT in Ghent, West Virginia – shows the need for training to rapidly evacuate such danger zones. West Virginia State Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis states in the video, “We take a vow to protect life and property. Life comes first.” Commenting on the video’s central them, Fire Marshal Lewis said, “We must train until it becomes second nature. We must educate ourselves and the public to the point we can help each other.”

Apex, North Carolina, Fire Chief Mark Haraway, whose department is depicted in the video as battling a “worst case scenario” due to a lack of information from a hazardous waste facility that caught fire in 2006, said, “I recommend this and other CSB safety videos for the training opportunities they provide.”

Other accidents highlighted in “Emergency Preparedness” include an allyl alcohol toxic chemical release in Dalton, Georgia; chlorine releases in Festus, Missouri, and Glendale, Arizona; a reactive chemical explosion in Jacksonville, Florida; and a recent reactive chemical explosion and community evacuation in Institute, West Virginia.

Timothy Gablehouse, a preparedness expert who appears in the video as president of the National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials (NASTTPO) and a member of the Colorado Emergency Planning Commission, said, “The CSB has done us all a great favor by compiling many of their investigation findings into a crisp and clear lessons learned message – a great reminder for us all."

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