Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Anhydrous Ammonia Video

There is a very brief article over on EmergencyMgmt.com pointing their readers to a police dash-cam video of an Illinios State Trouper responding to an auto accident that, unknown to him, includes a fertilizer application trailer leaking anhydrous ammonia. The video should be one that is required viewing for all first responders.

I’m sure that the training that the Trooper received included recognizing DOT hazard placards. I am also pretty sure that he had received specific training on the hazards of anhydrous ammonia, Illinois has tough rules about the security of anhydrous ammonia storage because of the number of thefts of the material by meth manufacturers. Responding to leaks associated with those thefts must be common enough in the State for there to be specific hazard training to be conducted as a matter of course.

Unfortunately the trooper commits a common hazmat response error. He forgets his training when he sees the injured body lying on the road. Ignoring the ‘cloud of smoke’, the markings on the trailer and the strong pungent odor of ammonia he races, first aid kit in hand, to the injured person’s side. He is overcome by the fumes so quickly he cannot even radio for assistance. He passed-out on top of the person he was attempting to aid.

The fire truck and ambulance crews approaching from the opposite direction were either better informed about the accident, or just more experienced and wary. They did not approach to execute the rescue until they had donned their breathing apparatus and had set a hose to knock down the toxic cloud. When they carried the Trooper away from where he had fallen he was still breathing.

This was a relatively small and nearly-benign hazmat incident. The leak is apparently small with a decent breeze blowing through the area. This is an ideal situation to keep the concentration of the ammonia cloud relatively low, below deadly levels. If the leak had been faster or the wind slower the cloud would have been much more toxic and the Trooper probably would not have even made it to the other victim’s side.

If this had been a tank truck or railcar of anhydrous ammonia instead of a fertilizer application trailer, the cloud would have affected a much larger area. If the accident had taken place in a town or a city, the potentially affected population would have been larger and significantly less well trained.

This is why emergency response personnel have to be trained and retrained, practiced and rehearsed, made to repeat the response until it becomes as automatic as that seen in the fire truck crew in this video. They need to know what hazardous materials they could routinely encounter in their area, either from transportation trailers or from fixed sites. Local companies that make, use, or transport these materials, particularly TIH chemicals need to ensure that their local responders are appropriately trained and equipped to deal with these incidents.

If you disagree, watch the video again.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */