Monday, April 8, 2013

Accidental Chemical Mixtures

Thanks to a blog post over at I learned about a new tool developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that will help emergency response planners and first responders better predict the potential outcome of an accidental mixture of chemicals. The free Chemical Reactivity Worksheet combines data sheets on ‘thousands’ of hazardous chemicals and a worksheet that allows you to explore the possible reactivity hazards when two or more of the chemicals are combined.

First responders would find this useful when they arrive on a chemical incident scene (like a train derailment) and there are multiple chemicals involved in the incident. Not only would they be able to determine the hazards associated with the individual chemicals involved, but they would also be able to determine the additional hazards that could result if two or more of the chemicals mixed at the incident scene.

Emergency planners can take the chemical inventory data provided by local facilities and use this tool to determine what additional hazards might arise at that facility should multiple storage containers be compromised in an incident. In any emergency response planning situation it is always preferable to know of as many of the potential dangers at a site as possible so that adequate response can be developed in advance of the incident occurring.

Chemical facility safety managers, particularly those without on-site technical support, could use this tool to determine storage compatibility issues necessary to provide for safe storage of chemicals at the facility. Keeping incompatible chemicals appropriately separated in a facility is a key method of preventing small spills from turning into major catastrophes.

If this tool performs half as well as the NOAA websites explain, it will be a valuable addition to any emergency responder or planners took kit.

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