Saturday, May 17, 2008

National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center

I ran across a brief article on about the establishment of Regional Incident Survey Teams. According to the article the International Association of Fire Chiefs is looking for people to apply to be on one of the five survey teams that will provide field support for the National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center.

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The fusion center under development is a cooperative effort of the IAFC and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) of the U.S. DOT. Its purpose is to serve as a clearinghouse for information for first responders about Hazmat incidents. As such it will collect information on hazmat incidents, provide analysis of that information and disseminate the information and analysis to the hazmat responder community.


With PHMSA being the lead federal agency (though certainly not the only federal agency involved), it would seem inevitable that the primary focus will be on hazmat incidents in transportation. This focus would seem reasonable with so many hazmat response incidents involving transportation issues. Having said that I am hoping that incidents at fixed sites receive appropriate attention.


Hazmat Responders in Incident Response Planning


This would seem to be an appropriate place to remind chemical facility planners to remember that part of any site security plan should be the Incident Response Plan. While the main focus of the site security plan is rightfully the prevention of a hazmat release due to a successful terrorist attack, any realistic plan should include provisions for dealing with the consequences of a successful attack.


Since local hazmat teams are going to be involved in any such response, they should be intimately involved in the process of developing the Incident Response Plan. The NHMFC should help to develop protocols for developing such plans. Such standards would be a great assistance to high-risk chemical facilities and their local hazmat teams across the country.


Chemical Vulnerability Information Requirements


If hazmat teams are going to be involved in the development of Incident Response Plans for high-risk chemical facilities, they need to be cleared for access to Chemical Vulnerability Information (CVI). This is not an onerous requirement. The on-line training is readily available and it does not take long to complete.


Hazmat teams do need to be made aware of the need to complete the training and obtaining the associated DHS certification. This is another area that the NHMFC can take the lead. Encouraging local hazmat teams to complete this training is a first step to making these teams an integral part of the incident response planning process.

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