Being a skilled and highly trained emergency health and safety professional my first thoughts upon arrival of this accident would be of the potential gravity of the situation and would be automatic to reflect many years and countless hours of intense hazardous materials response, mitigation, and safety training. Identification is the key to any hazardous materials response and mitigation incident. I would stage myself at least ½ mile uphill upwind from the scene as recommended by the DOT 2008 Emergency Response Guidebook.( U.S.DOT Guidebook ) Timing is as critical and I would contact 911 to activate the local fire and police departments to respond to stage at the command post for future deployment of setting up isolation zones and evacuation procedures.
My company hazardous materials response team ( HMRT ) would be activated as they have just recently been added to the county emergency action plan ( EAP ) as a regional hazardous responder HMRT team. It is vital to initiate the incident command process and establish a visible command post ( CP ) as this incident has the potential to become a large multi-agency operation. Control must be established and maintained throughout the incident using Unified Command communication to maximize safety.
Upon arrival of the fire, police, and HMRT teams a coordinated effort of identification, evacuation, and mitigation is needed to create an effective, proper, and safe incident action plan ( IAP ). Without the assistance of the driver and his bill of lading, the materials identification is vital as the initial visual signs indicate a class-8 corrosive placarded tanker UN-1836 as Thionyl Chloride on an orange panel ( Orange panel is an indication of a product contained within an intermodal container of European or South American origin ). (U.S.DOT Guidebook ) The reference of DOT’s 2008 ERG, Chemtrec, CHRIS manual, and CAMEO provide thorough chemical information, hazards, emergency response, evacuation and isolation zones, safety and first aid, and mitigation directives.
Thionyl Chloride is a water reactive toxic corrosive agent which can cause severe inhalation and skin burns if contacted. It is flammable and if it comes in contact with water it will produce Hydrogen Chloride vapors which are extremely harmful and toxic. Immediate evacuation procedures by fire and police must be thoroughly conducted at least 1-mile in all directions. This evacuation operation could also include the local town downwind. Inner local HMRT teams must follow a strict IAP throughout operations to include fully encapsulated suits, SCBA, monitoring, decon and decon zones, hazardous materials team master, recon teams, entry teams, EMS, 2-in2-out, RIT, and communications. If the leak can be controlled by repairing the valve or piping, plugging or banding, it could minimize the run-off contamination which would need to be diked and monitored per TCEQ and EPA standards.
Off loading the product would be a last resort operation as it can be extremely dangerous. Upon conclusion of the incident, a complete thorough incident critique review must be conducted to evaluate the IAP and county’s EOC /EOP’s positive performance throughout the incident to identify conflicts and discrepancies within the operation which will allow all of the inner local agencies to learn from good decisions and actions as well as mistakes to improve within their own department’s SOG’s and future training scenarios. References
U.S.Department of Transportation ( 2008 ) Emergency Response Guidebook