New CSB Safety Video Highlights Training Needs for Propane Emergencies

Oct. 17, 2008
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently released "Half an Hour to Tragedy," a new 23-minute safety video based on the deadly propane gas explosion at the Little General convenience store in Ghent, W.Va., in January 2007.

CSB’s written report on the tragedy, which killed two emergency responders and two propane technicians, was approved Sept. 25. For more information, read CSB Releases Draft Report on Little General Store Propane Explosion.

The video’s title refers to the nearly 30 minutes that elapsed between the beginning of the propane release and the moment of the explosion. During that period, no evacuation occurred, and volunteer firefighters and others entered the flammable propane cloud.

A 7-minute, 3-D computer animation shows how a defective valve on a 500-gallon propane storage tank shot propane directly into the store building through attic vents, during what was to supposed to have been a routine change of propane service provider.

"This video shows how a number of factors – a tank placed too close to the building, a lack of necessary training for propane technicians and a lack of awareness among technicians and responders to order an immediate evacuation – combined to take the lives of four people," said John Bresland, CSB chairman and CEO. "Across the United States, firefighters are responding to propane emergencies almost every day. Training and preparedness are the keys to preventing tragic accidents like the one in West Virginia last year.”

West Virginia State Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis Jr., is featured in the video, along with CSB investigators Robert Hall, P.E., and Jeffrey Wanko, P.E., CSP.

"Our hope is that fire departments and propane companies throughout the nation will view this video and study the Board's findings and recommendations," said Wanko. "The information in this video can save lives in case of a propane emergency."

CSB recommended mandatory training for propane technicians using improved training materials, regular hazardous materials training and drills for responders and new propane release guidance for 911 emergency operators.

The video can be viewed at or, and free DVD copies can be ordered through CSB’s Web site.

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