CSB Releases Safety Video on Need for Chemical Emergency Preparedness

June 17, 2009
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently 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 CSB has investigated over the past decade.

The new video, “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.

CSB Chairman John Bresland noted in the video, “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.

Deadly Examples

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 CSB 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, W.Va., – shows the need for training to rapidly evacuate such danger zones.

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, W.Va.

“We take a vow to protect life and property,” said West Virginia State Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis in the video. “Life comes first.”

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