HazMat Call Game Changer

The pipeline incident may have happened more than six years ago, but it’s a vivid memory that hasn’t faded for Fred Windisch, fire chief of the Ponderosa (Texas) Fire Department and a VCOS board member.

On that day, two drivers crashed and ran off the road in a road-rage incident. One of the cars ran across a pipeline and sheared off a valve. “We had a 1,000-PSI natural gas stream shooting up in the air that caught ignition,” Windisch reported. “The flames were 200 feet in the air.”

However, because his station is based in the Houston area, home to a large oil and gas industry, his team knew exactly what to do. “Our job is to protect exposures. It’s to keep the place safe, keep people out and stabilize as much as we can while we wait for the experts to get in and the company to shut the valve in,” Windisch explained.

This knowledge and familiarity with responding to an incident as rare as a pipeline emergency comes from years of education and training from an industry that reaches out, says Windisch. “Pipeline emergency disruptions are very rare, and as with anything in our business, we’re going to focus primarily on the stuff that happens all the time. But the pipeline industry pulls us into their discussions and their education and the information means so much.”

Accessing Readily Available Education

Late last year, Windisch attended a presentation by TransCanada and the IAFC in Tyler, Texas. It was just one in a series of regional townhalls around the U.S. that assemble industry representatives and first responders to exchange ideas on pipeline emergency preparedness. The townhalls continue this year in regions where TransCanada’s pipelines pass through, such as Michigan and Wisconsin.

In addition to the townhalls, TransCanada regularly conducts emergency drills and exercises to ensure staff and local emergency responders are prepared in the case of an incident. In 2014, TransCanada held over 110 safety exercises and drills across their entire network of North American assets.

Windisch says it’s this kind of education and training that is invaluable to emergency responders, no matter where they’re based. “Pipelines generally lay there and do their thing and nothing goes wrong. There’s the human factor to think, ‘Oh, well, I haven’t had any problems and nothing is going to happen,’ and complacency rolls in. And we don’t step out all the time to get this information and education that’s readily available.”

“But once every decade, we’ll have a pipeline emergency and that’s not our expertise,” he says.

“This particular session really prepares the first responder to understand the fine points of a pipeline, a pipeline emergency and the capability of the companies to respond to that emergency.”

Information Can Be a Game Changer

Several states north, in an area also familiar with the oil and gas industry, Darrell Hartmann has been the fire chief at Brookings (South Dakota) Fire Department for more than 17 years. He hosted the inaugural TransCanada-IAFC presentation in June 2015 and said after attending the session that his team gained more confidence when it comes to pipeline incidents. “We train a lot and we’ve got some very seasoned people on the department. We thought we had a good handle on pipeline emergency response, but they still gave us some tips to use and we made some important industry contacts.”

In his many years at the department, he has seen few pipeline incidents and agrees they’re not common. Despite their rarity, he says this kind of training can be a game changer during a call and is critical to emergency responders. “It may give you the additional information that could make all the difference on the next call.”

During the session, his team gained important information on the location of pipelines in their area, which companies operate them and how to contact them—information that was then passed on to their dispatch center.

According to Hartmann, the session ultimately “got those handshakes going with the local pipeline people.”

Building Relationships with Industry

Allen Dodson, a former Arkansas county judge who ended up on the front lines responding to a significant oil pipeline leak in 2013, is one of the presenters at the townhalls who says that building contacts is actually one of the main purposes of the meetings. “The townhall meetings provide local firefighters and first responders with a golden opportunity to build knowledge, familiarity and relationships.”

He says the sessions are designed to increase the preparedness of emergency responders for incidents on any pipelines in the area—regardless of whether they belong to TransCanada. “The more familiarity you can build before an incident, the stronger and more decisive your response will be.”

– See more at: https://www.iafc.org/on-scene/on-scene-article/a-potential-game-changer-for-the-next-call#sthash.xVJXM9i0.dpuf

This Is A HazMat Call

Recognizing that you’re operating on the scene of a hazardous materials emergency is key to keeping responders safe during operations on such calls. Command and chief officers often operate on the scene of a hazmat call as if they were chasing a ghost in the darkness. Decisions on an emergency scene are often driven by visual indicators of progress, and that’s how we adjust and redirect our strategy and tactics.

Unfortunately, toxic atmospheres can’t be visually detected and mandate the use of detection and survey devices by technically trained personnel. In Near-Miss report 09-950, the officer in charge was prompted several times to the fact that he was responding to a hazmat call but failed to react accordingly.

I responded on a first-due assignment to a reported hazmat release. The product that had been released was chlorine. The chemical was raining down and causing skin burns to the people outside. While en route, I asked my officer where he wanted to shut down and stage. He failed to answer me; I asked him again, this time trying to prompt him to use the ERG to establish a safe distance. I still received no answer.

Once on scene, a safe distance should be established to set your isolation zones (hot, warm and cold). Initial reconnaissance should be done from a safe distance and may require the use of binoculars to identify signage, placards or labels that can tell you what product you’re dealing with. Being uphill and upwind is ideal, but not always achievable.

A best-practice approach is to use several resource books, coupled with meters and survey equipment from a safe distance, to safely set your isolation zones. Once you’ve established the hot zone, entry for on-scene personnel should be restricted to technically trained personnel and where the hot line is should be both verbally communicated and established with visual indicators such as barrier tape or cones.

At no point should you, as the incident commander, enter the hot zone to perform reconnaissance.

Further on in this near-miss report, the officer in charge directed the driver to park in a protective position but then changed tactics and decided to take a closer look; he ended up exposing himself and the crew to a potentially toxic atmosphere:

I parked uphill and upwind from the release and started to shut down the engine. The officer then instructed me to drive towards the building in question so he could do a safety size-up. At this point, we were unaware if the leak was stopped or not and had no indication of having a safe scene. I asked the officer to confirm the order and he did. I then proceeded to drive directly into the hot zone, followed by our ambulance. Once we got to the building, the officer rolled down his window, began to interview the victims and ordered the ambulance to load them up and take them out of the hot zone.

Taking the time to do a thorough size-up and risk analysis will set you up for success when commanding a hazmat call. Starting with dispatch information, you can start to navigate the uncontrollable factors that will help establish a safe operating practice once on scene.

The other factor to consider is communication. Hazmat response is a resource-based discipline and a number of issues must be addressed before engaging in offensive tactics. Establishing a resource officer and taking the extra minute or two to identify threshold values and behavior patterns of the chemical in question will allow for a safer, deliberate approach to mitigating the problem.

By frontloading the call and being proactive, command officers will be able to safely respond and operate on the scene of a hazmat call.

C.J. Haberkorn is the assistant chief in charge of Special Operations for the Denver Fire Department and is a trainer for the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System.

– See more at: https://www.iafc.org/on-scene/on-scene-article/near-miss-reporting-stop-look-and-listen-this-is-a-hazmat-call#sthash.19OiO1kD.dpuf

New Biodetection Studies Give Real World Application For Response Teams

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) recently completed an evaluation of nearly three dozen field biodetection products and performed over 5,000 tests to assess their ability to accurately detect anthrax and ricin, which are potential biothreat agents that could be encountered during suspected bioterror or suspicious powder responses.

“Independent testing of field biological detection and analysis equipment has been a major hole in our national bioterrorism response capability and strategy,” said David Ladd, director of hazmat response for Massachusetts (retired) and independent counterterrorism consultant.

Biological indicator tests like protein were not very sensitive and found to produce numerous false positives with benign powders. Immunoassays performed well for detection of these biothreat agents and were generally better for detection of ricin vs. anthrax, although extensive testing with near-neighbor organisms that could give false positive results was not done.  Fieldable PCR systems, while designed for detecting organisms rather than toxins, were also tested and could detect thousands of times lower amounts of anthrax than immunoassays, although PCR assays can take 30-60 minutes.  Most fieldable polymerase chain reaction (PCR) systems gave no false-positive results with common powders or near-neighbor organisms.

The PNNL findings are also published in Health Security to help guide first responder organizations in field biodetection product procurement and to improve their understanding of product potential limitations.

Mr. Ladd noted the impact and value of the findings: “Validated performance capabilities of this equipment allow us to move forward in building a capability by purchasing and deploying devices that gain acceptance by other stakeholders in the bioterrorism response community.”

Read more.


Steven Ilchishin, Program Specialist, IAFC Hazmat Center, contributed to this post.


– See more at: https://www.iafc.org/blogs/blog/iafc/2017/05/04/hazmat-responders-to-get-help-in-biodetection#sthash.z7CPAlMt.dpuf

Big Shifts For HazMat Response

The world of emergency response is ever evolving. A few short decades ago, the thought that the fire service would be staffing ambulances and running medical calls seemed almost absurd. Technical rescue teams were relegated to the industrial community. And the concept of a SWAT medic wasn’t even on the horizon.

The world of hazardous-materials response was no different, with nearly radical changes in response and ability today compared to a relatively short time ago.

There was a time in fire service history when hazmat responses of any kind were the responsibility of a relatively few specially trained responders. Some hazmat teams were so few and far between that response times were measured in hours instead of minutes. Specialty training was highly technical and limited to a few qualified responders. That training was expensive and not readily available for many agencies.

Today, hazmat response is still highly technical but changes in training and resource availability have expanded the number of responders and the types of responses. It’s not uncommon today for engine, truck or rescue crews to routinely go on hazmat calls: fuel spills, odor investigations or other so-called minor hazmat emergencies.

In many places, engine crews—trained to the operations level—are tasked with decontamination responsibilities at hazmat incidents. Fire companies now routinely support the operations of the hazmat team.

The technical world of hazmat emergencies, however, is no less daunting today. In addition to the normal responses of tank-truck emergencies, industrial accidents and derailments, hazmat crews are today tasked with the intricacies of WMD response. This field of knowledge is relatively new to the fire service and encompasses a wide range of issues, including challenges with training, equipment and sensitive information.

Compounding these challenges are ongoing changes in the industrial and chemical community, the rapid proliferation of alternative fuels, the ever-expanding hazards of illegal drug manufacture and the newly popular chemical-suicide phenomenon. Embracing these realities in an era of decreased fiscal ability and increased economic uncertainty has been challenging for many organizations across the country.

Fortunately for the fire and emergency service, the breadth of knowledge and available information surrounding hazardous materials has become broader and more accessible. Regional, national and international conferences on hazardous materials are more prevalent today and well attended. Hazmat teams are collaborating and sharing resources and information like never before. There are even competitions and challenges designed for the hazmat community to demonstrate their skills and expand their knowledge base.

The IAFC has also worked to expand the knowledgebase for such specialty services as hazmat. Projects like the National Hazmat Fusion Center, the Hazmat Roundtable Report, Model Procedures for Responding to a Package with Suspicion of a Biological Threat, the Ethanol Fixed Facilities Guide—these efforts have all engaged subject-matter experts from throughout the world to provide valuable information to fire service members dealing with hazmat emergencies.

Perhaps some of the greatest impacts to the hazmat community have been in the areas of information and technology. Information retrieval and operational capacity of field equipment is at the forefront of this watershed. The explosion of technology has revolutionized the ability to query, capture and transmit relevant data on hazardous materials in real time. Could you have imagined 10 years ago that the entire Emergency Response Guidebook would be accessible on your phone? The thought of identifying an unknown substance in the field inside a minute with a small sample and a laser was simply preposterous. Yet, today our equipment and technology allow us to do this and more. What will we be able to do 10 years from today?

The field of hazmat response is dynamic—it’s constantly changing. The variety and nature of calls hazmat teams respond to, the complexity of the technology leveraged to affect successful outcomes, the growing volume of information technicians have access to and must decipher—all of these things are in a constant state of flux. Seemingly, the only constant in the equation of specialized hazmat response is the unwavering commitment of the fire and emergency service to embrace these challenges.

While the number and complexity of circumstances the fire service will face will undoubtedly grow, there will always be men and women committed to answering the hazmat call.

– See more at: https://www.iafc.org/on-scene/on-scene-article/specialized-services-rapidly-changing-hazmat-response#sthash.5YEG6jq8.dpuf

New Regulations for High-Hazard Flammable Rail Shipments

On May 1, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued final rulemaking that addresses the ongoing hazards and risks associated with rail cars carrying Hazard Class 3 liquids.

Responding to increasing calls for improved safety regulations to address a growing number of derailments involving rail cars carrying crude oil and ethanol, these regulations will result in enhanced tank-car safety standards and improved operational controls.

Under this final rule, high-hazard flammable trains (HHFT) are defined as trains with 20 or more consecutive flammable-liquid rail tank cars or 35 or more flammable-liquid rail tank cars interspersed throughout a train.

The published rule changes for HHFTs include the following:

  • A new DOT class (DOT 117) of flammable-liquids rail cars has been developed. DOT 117 railcars will have a thicker shell, more thermal protection, enhanced head protection and improved outlet and relief-valve protection, all designed to decrease the potential for fires and spills resulting from accidents. All such cars manufactured after October 1, 2015, must be constructed to meet these new specifications.
  • A retrofit requirement specifies that all current DOT 111 railcars in service meet the DOT 117 specification performance standards by 2023.
  • Enhanced breaking systems for HHFT unit trains are required. These systems, also known as positive train control, result in brakes being applied to all cars at the same time rather than sequentially.
  • Speed limits of 50 MPH for all HHFT trains and lower speed restrictions based on the types of rail cars (that is, nonretrofitted) and the physical area the train is traveling through have been established. High-threat urban areas carry a maximum speed limit of 40 MPH.
  • New train-routing analysis criteria requiring railroads to determine routes based on 27 different safety and security factors will be developed.
  • Classification of unrefined petroleum products being shipped via rail will be improved.
  • Railroads must notify state and regional fusion centers and state and local officials who contact a railroad must be provided appropriate assistance in order to request information related to the routing of hazardous materials through their jurisdictions.

Throughout this process, the leaders of the IAFC and the IAFC Hazmat Committee have been involved in monitoring and commenting on the development of these rules to ensure the fire service had a voice in this important matter.

The IAFC Hazmat Committee resources page and the National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center both provide information and training resources related to HHFTs and the transportation of all types of hazardous materials.

– See more at: https://www.iafc.org/on-scene/on-scene-article/new-rules-for-high-hazard-flammable-trains#sthash.UumrwIxt.dpuf

New AskRail App Helps Locate HazMat Transport Rail Cars

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has developed a safety tool for first responders. The AskRail mobile app provides accurate, timely data about railcars carrying hazardous materials on a train. Using this app will keep first responders well prepared and informed about how to respond to a rail emergency.

AskRail combines emergency training and response planning and supplements the flow of information and specifics between railroads and first responders in communities along the nation’s 140,000-mile freight-rail network.

Launched in 2014, AskRail is part of the standard training first responders receive from North American Class I railroads, fire-service organizations and other partners. The app is available in French and English in the United States, Canada and Mexico and can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

AskRail is a collaborative effort among all North American Class I railroads, the AAR, Railinc Corp., and the Transportation Technology Center, Inc.

For security reasons, only certified and qualified first responders are allowed access to the app. It’s an easy three-step process:

  1. Download the app to your mobile device.
  2. Register with AskRail in the app.
  3. Follow the instructions in the email notification you receive.

This process may take up to several weeks.

To learn more, visit AskRail.us or watch a short video describing the app’s features.

Note: AskRail is a backup resource if information from the train conductor is unavailable.

– See more at: https://www.iafc.org/on-scene/on-scene-article/askrail-version-3-is-now-available#sthash.uNOzr5CQ.dpuf

Service Life Extension of SCBA Cylinders

Good news! First responders out of the federal agency that develop and enforce federal hazmat transportation and pipeline safety regulations finally get payoff.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), announced on April 21 that it has issued a special permit to authorize the extension of the 15-year service life of certain carbon fiber reinforced aluminum-lined cylinders that are used in self-contained breathing apparatuses by fire departments and first responders.

PHMSA says this may provide a cost savings of $350 million or more over a 15-year period, most of which can be passed on to first responders and local fire departments throughout the U.S.

The IAFC’s Safety, Health and Survival Section and the Volunteer & Combination Officers Section, along with the National Volunteer Fire Council, coordinated the donation of more than 1,000 cylinders to the PHMSA contractor for testing.

More information is available on the PHMSA website. Keep up on the latest hazmat news on the IAFC hazmat webpage.

– See more at: https://www.iafc.org/blogs/blog/iafc/2017/04/25/service-life-extension-of-scba-cylinders-to-pay-off-for-local-fire-departments#sthash.ldykeHYh.dpuf


HazCat® waste is often disposed of by simply bulking it with the waste at the site.
There are instances where this is not acceptable. It is the HazCat® user’s
responsibility to determine compatibility
of HazCat® waste with bulk waste and to
determine the waste stream. All HazCat® reagents are labeled with chemical
names. HazCat® waste must be disposed of according to local jurisdiction.

What’s That Smell?

Things like toluene, hexane, alcohol, ammonia hydroxide and xylene all produce odors.  Make sure the little washer is under the black caps on the bottles.

The ammonia/acetate reagent (RE-2313) does produce an odor that is similar to vinegar and maybe somewhat sweet

To alleviate the problem….Odors are from vapors and they are generated faster when the hotter weather starts in.  Keep the kit cool.

Also if they open the kit every day and use it it might lessen the odor intensity.