Monday, May 01, 2006

Disaster planning training!

An announcement by N.A.I.T. they were going to start a disaster planning course is brave but one has to wonder if the product of such a course will be used for P.R. spins or supply the means by which to avoid the press. And yes, there are ways to avoid the press!

I have extensive training and active practice in this field both in the fire service and the marine service; US and Canadian. All disaster plans work to the point they are totally defeated! The defeat oddly enough is the mark of success. After the entire “what if” scenarios have expired, one bright light will say “what happens if a 747 lands in your back yard?” and, every one at the meeting goes home! Disasters come in different sizes and venue; the term its self is relative.

There are levels of disaster planning from the home; to the playground; to the business; to the local fire and police; to the municipal politic; to the Provincial politic; to the Federal politic ending up with the international politic such as it is.

Alberta Public Safety was originally called Alberta Disaster Services. I am of the opinion their original name was more indicative of their service than the newer version as Wabanum has demonstrated.

The first question would be “What kind of disaster are you planning for?” Where do our risks lie in consideration of storage, transportation gas wells and pipelines?

The construction and volumes of different trailers on tanker trucks vary. This is a consideration if you are down wind from a main highway.

What are our resources such as equipment specific to the risk identified and how long will it take it to get here? Contact names and numbers, top of your plan.

Using Wabanum examples the oil companies had the fully equipped Oil Spill Response trailers (O.S.C.A.R) at different spots around the province (hours away) yet, CN went to Texas for their cure while the spill took over the lake. O.S.C.A.R. was invented to service the oil consortium. Crews trained and practiced. No one told CN "Hey! Here we are!" I personally think the responsibility for that spill management goes a lot further than CN! The head in the sand attitude by the consortim is not excusable! At some point these companies have to start contributing to the community as a whole!

This question of what kind of disaster is best answered by taking an inventory of the area you are concerned with. Consider your proximity to a highway, rail line, pipe line or main through fare. What is the direction of prevailing winds? Is evacuation possible or would the best plan be to close off all outside air intake and stay in doors as would be the case with poison gas blowing your way. In this case any kind of shelter is preferable to being caught in the open.

Highway tanker truck tanks come in many confirmations. Best treated as a BBC problem as in Beer Binoculars and a Chair. Look to the number of domes on the tank to best determine the number of compartments in the tank. A multi compartment tank will (big word here) probably leak less than a one, larger compartment tank.

What do you have stored in your basement? In your garage? Near the playground? Through out the business, town and county? Is lint cleaned from dryer vents and from structure in and around the washer and dryer? Are escape routes like basement windows clear of obstruction? Ask for a fire department inspection. A new pair of eyes tends to see things you may have overlooked because of being familiar with the location. No one is caught wrong!

The thing to do first is take an inventory; write it down along with locations and addresses where applicable. While you are doing this, you may ask yourself why this item is stored here. Having determined it is a risk, is it necessary? Better outside secured than inside?

Acetylene for instance can auto ignite; it is stabilized in cylinders by being suspended in acetone! Make sure all cylinders are stored with the escape vents clear and free of the liquid inside (usually upright). These escape vents will pass liquid as well as gas making the bad situation thousands of times worse!

Remember a situation may be entirely safe until you enter into it. A flash may totally engulf you! Your presence may set it off! Emergency numbers, who to call and the order they should be called are the first thing to put down into your plan and your plan should be made by all the stake holders and all should have a copy during development and upon completion.

Make a call. How long will it take the local fire department or other response to reach you? 5 minutes? If that is the case, your emergency plan should cover 5 minutes and evacuation or barricade in that period of time will probably be all you want to plan for.

The insipient (starting) stage of a fire demands a minimum of 2400 gallons of water on hand for the knock down. Your garden hose is capable at best of 5 gallons a minute! Make the phone calls first!

Most flammable liquids giving off vapors are at an ignition mixture while being much lower than you can sense by smell! Odor or the lack of it is no gauge at all! If you can’t smell it, it may well be ripe for an ignition!

Propane expands 240 times from a liquid to a gas. This gas has a lower flammability limit of 2.2%. To make the numbers easier 1 liter of propane liquid will create 24,000 liters (240 cubic meters) of explosive gas!
Propane MSDS
Because propane is so common as to be taken for granted I will also add that it is odorless. The stench is added by adding Methyl Mercaptan (the natural stench of decaying matter) into the gas so you can smell it.

Methyl Mercaptan can be removed with water! So, if propane is spilled in a snow ditch, runs down a hill and pools at the bottom, you will have the stench at the top of the hill and no knowledge of where the pools of propane have settled under the snow. Most flammable gasses are heavier than air with some notable exceptions like natural gas and hydrogen which are lighter and will pool on the ceilings when released. Know what you are dealing with. If you don’t know, find out before rather than after.

Generally, the lower the temperature the easier it is to get exactly the right mixture for a bang! Lower temperatures generally mean a lower density of vapor/air mix. For instance the enclosure of your automobile gas tank assures a vapor rich, low risk atmosphere in the tank. Not sufficient Oxygen to support combustion. Gasoline also has a chromium additive in it which enables static electricity to travel across the surface to ground on the tank side. Friction static from sloshing is reduced by this additive also.

However, outside the tank as you watch the vapors fall away from the spout, you are watching a rapid mixture of vapor with air and, that is waiting for an ignition source such has hot mufflers or static electricity or a near by touch of a brake light.

Gasoline on the other hand has a little less “bang” than propane and much less “bang” than does diesel fuel. Diesel fuel has a higher flash/explosion point that seems to match warm summer days. Diesel is a huge explosion by comparisons! Diesel, crude and other fuels do not have additives in it to conduct away the surface static electricity! In fact, they are insulators of electricity so contribute to the build up of static electricity! Be so very careful when handling diesel and the likes on a warm day! Never splash fill a tank; never put air on a tank to force liquid! It is taken for granted far too often.

Diesel Gas Flash

What makes the “bang”? The amount of power or B.T.U the liquid or gas is capable of generating on a burn. The bigger the BTU the bigger potential:”bang”

Approximate BTU for comparison in US Gallons multiply by 125 for Imperial measure. Twist numbers for metric. Link to BTU

Btu 1 Barrel US (42 gallons) of crude oil = 5,800,000
Btu 1 gallon of gasoline = 124,000
Btu1 gallon of diesel fuel = 139,000
Btu1 gallon of heating oil = 139,000
Btu 1 barrel of residual fuel oil = 6,287,000
Btu1 cubic foot of natural gas = 1,031 Btu1 gallon of propane = 91,000
Btu1 short ton of coal = 20,754,000
Btu1 kilowatt hour of electricity = 3,412 Btu

Fire Departments will have taken a town inventory along the lines of exactly where bulk storage is in their community. Underground tanks included. Also which buildings and/or businesses have gas cylinders stored in them! Addresses and co operation of tenant is imperative! Fire departments will always consider the limited use of water in order to protect the ground water from poison run off.

When a fire department considers a toxic gas escape from transportation or gas line “evacuation” or “no evacuation” has to be considered and all stake holders have to be aware and buy into the plan! This doesn’t seem to be happening around Calgary.

Fire departments are usually equipped with limited amounts of chlorine bleach and carbon particle to neutralize poison or pesticide leakage. Incidentally pesticide poising usually appears as “flu like symptoms” and is caused by renal failure, limited or otherwise by absorbing the stuff through your skin and eyes as well as inhaling fumes. These things are “systemic” to everything literally.

One of the most dangerous industrial/domestic chemicals is caustic soda. (Hydrogen Peroxide or Calcium Peroxide). Lye, paint stripper or super cleaner the stuff is insidious! When spilled onto the ground it can remain active in the ground for weeks. The fumes can cause 3 rd degree burns! Think here of pets and bare foot kids. Or, bare bottoms when they sit on a toilet seat where that toilet has recently been cleaned with caustic solution.

When caustic burns it changes the burn location so your body no longer knows its there. This is why months and even years and perhaps surgery are required to allow the body to heal. Full protective clothing and eye protection is a must. There are no second chances with this stuff. The First World War prompted the mix of flame throwers with caustic gel so wounds wouldn’t heal. Object to tie up more people.

Many civic fire Departments foster a faster arrival time by having what is essentially a passenger vehicle arrive on site in a very short period of time. This time is then given out as a response time where in reality the Pumper, Tanker and hose trucks do not arrive until some time later.

In most states the fire department is in charge of all aspects when called! If the police phone the fire deparment, the police step down when they arrive.

In some US states jurisdition remains with the fire department until they leave the scene. For this reason they will park a fire marshal pickup truck on the lawn to maintain a legal presence.

Determine what “response time” means when discussing.

Many of you may recognize me from the lecturer and trainer for “The Dangerous Goods Training School”.

I’m open for questions or speaking engagements.
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