CSB Recommends Improvements to Revision of DOT’s Emergency Response Guidebook
In mid-October, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued several recommendations to improve the proposed revision of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook (http://bit.ly/dotguide), a manual intended for use by emergency responders in transportation incidents involving chemical fires, explosions, and releases of hazardous materials. CSB’s recommendations stem from the agency’s findings that though the guidebook is provided for use in transportation incidents, many emergency responders—including firefighters, medical technicians, and police officers—use it when responding to chemical accidents at fixed facilities. CSB notes that directions on how to respond to incidents at fixed chemical or manufacturing facilities may be very different. The agency is urging DOT to clarify the use of the guidebook in non-transportation incidents and to include additional guidance as to where responders can find chemical hazard information when responding to incidents at fixed facilities, such as material safety data sheets (MSDS).
CSB’s comments also address the need for changes to the guidebook related to handling ammonium nitrate fires such as the one that led to the explosion at a fertilizer storage facility in West, Texas, last year that killed 12 first responders. According to CSB, DOT’s guidance should consider ammonium nitrate’s “unpredictable and explosive nature” and the “potential for detonation within a very short time frame.”