CSB: "Significant lack of planning for flooding" cited in final report into August 2017 Arkema chemical plant fire near Houston

  Houston, TX, May 24, 2018: The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final investigation report into the August 31, 2017, fire at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. In the days leading up to the incident, an unprecedented amount of rain fell at the plant due to Hurricane Harvey, causing equipment to flood and fail. As a result, chemicals stored at the plant decomposed and burned, releasing fumes and smoke into the air.    CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Our investigation found that there is a significant lack of guidance in planning for flooding or other severe weather events. Based on other government reports, we know that there is a greater likelihood of more severe weather across the country. As we prepare for this year’s hurricane season, it is critical that industry better understand the safety hazards posed by extreme weather events.”    The Arkema chemical plant...
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Ferrara's Super Pumper exceeds industry records

  HOLDEN, LA – May 23, 2018 - Ferrara’s high capacity Super Pumper™ has received Underwriters Laboratories (UL) confirmation for a flow capability of 6256 gallons per minute from draft at a discharge pressure of 125 PSI.  Ferrara has once again exceeded the record for pump performance. The actual performance test has been documented and witnessed by both Underwriters Laboratories and the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office.   With this new increased flow capability, fire departments will no longer be limited to the standard industrial rating of 100 percent capacity at only 100 PSI net discharge pressure.  Breaking the 100 PSI ceiling has been made possible with the unit’s new HPV6000 pump from US Fire Pump. With four 8-inch and one 12-inch intake connections, the ability to be remotely supplied from mega hydrants is now feasible.    Other features of the Ferrara Super Pumper™ include: Triple threat deck gun system offering...
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CSB chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland announces resignation

  Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland announced today that she will be stepping down and resigning from the position of Chair and Board Member of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board next month. Chair Sutherland released the following statement:   “I am saddened to leave the wonderful mission and incredible work of the CSB. This mission is unique and critically important because we are the only agency conducting independent, comprehensive root cause chemical incident investigations.  As we continue to recognize the agency’s 20th anniversary of operations, we still have much work to do to achieve our vision of a nation safe from chemical disasters. And I️ am absolutely certain that this team, and future hires, will both excel in execution and outshine our prior efforts.  I’m fortunate to have been a part of the work.”   The board members will be required to vote on an interim executive, unless and...
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CSB investigators deploying to specialty chemical plant blast in Pasadena, TX

A four-person investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying to an incident that reportedly injured 21 workers at the Kuraray America facility in Pasadena, Texas on Saturday morning. The facility manufactures ethylene vinyl-alcohol copolymers, sold as EVALTM. Kuraray America is a Tokyo-based specialty chemical manufacturer.   A press release issued by Kuraray states that at the time of the incident, 266 employees and contract personnel were onsite as part of a turnaround with heavy maintenance activities. All have been accounted for. Twenty-one individuals were transported to off-site medical facilities for treatment.   Preliminary findings indicate a pressure safety valve released ethylene causing a flash fire in one of our process units. The company continues to work with authorities to complete the investigation. The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical incidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by...
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Pruitt rescinding safety rules prompted by fatal 2013 fertilizer plant blast in West, TX

  Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt moved Thursday to rescind much of a package of safety measures proposed for chemical plants nationwide after a deadly blast at a Texas fertilizer plant.               To read the entire article, CLICK HERE .
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Mercedes joins auto makers suffering plant shuts downs due to fire-related parts shortage

The parts shortage that cut production at Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler has forced Mercedes-Benz to stop building sport-utility vehicles at its assembly plant in Vance, Alabama, the German automaker confirmed.   To read the entire article, CLICK HERE .
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Ford halts F150 production in Kansas City after supplier fire in Michigan

  KANSAS CITY, Mo.—A supplier fire in Michigan last week is pinching production of the F-150 pickup, the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., but the impact is expected to be minimal for both Ford Motor Co. and its dealers.   To read the entire article, CLICK HERE .
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CSB releases final report into 2017 explosion at Louisiana pulp and paper mill

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has released its final investigation report into the February 8, 2017, explosion at the Packaging Corporation of America’s (PCA’s) DeRidder, Louisiana, pulp and paper mill. The incident killed three contract workers that were performing welding and grinding, referred to as “hot work,” above a tank that contained flammable materials. Seven others were injured.    CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “As seen in this incident, hot work conducted around tanks containing flammable materials can be catastrophic. That is why it is so important for companies to effectively identify, evaluate, and control potential hazards prior to initiation of hot work.”   The explosion at PCA occurred during the facility’s annual shutdown. On the day of the incident, contract workers were welding on water piping above and disconnected from a 100,000-gallon-capacity storage tank. The tank contained about ten feet of liquid, called “foul condensate.” The foul condensate...
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CSB investigators deploy to probe explosion at oil refinery in Wisconsin

A four-person investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying to the scene of an incident that reportedly injured multiple workers this morning at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior, WI. The refinery was shutting down in preparation for a five-week turnaround when an explosion was reported around 10 a.m. CDT April 26th. According to initial reports, several people were transported to area hospitals with injuries. There have been no reports of fatalities. Residents and area schools near the refinery were asked to evacuate due to heavy smoke. The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical incidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. The Board does not...
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Flood damaged Beaumont, TX fire training school to reopen by late July

A Beaumont, TX-based rescue training company has stepped forward to save the Beaumont Emergency Safety Training complex, closed since August 2017 after heavy flooding from Hurricane Harvey.   The Beaumont City Council voted unanimously to grant a 20-year lease to Industrial Rescue Instruction Systems, Inc., an industrial emergency training school with facilities in Beaumont and Baytown, TX, near Houston.   “This is an opportunity we’ve been looking for,” said IRIS owner David Owens. “The city offered the school to us in 2002 but we weren’t big enough at the time.”     Making an investment of $1.5 million in the facility, Owens said he expects to reopen by the end of July.   Founded in 1966 under the name “Flame City,” the 45-acre complex consists of 14 fire training simulations or “props,” and assorted other facilities for training in rescue and hazardous materials response.   Located on the banks of the...
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Shell ERT plays host to autistic teen who yearns to fight fire someday

Leland Paniza is a teenager of few words, owing mainly to autism. What betrayed his excitement watching emergency responders from Shell work a live-fire training project at Brayton Fire Training Field was a shy smile that slowly spread across his face. “I want to be a firefighter,” Leland said. “I want to save people.” Leland, a student at A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, TX, has a friend who got word to the Shell responders training at Brayton about his fascination with firefighting.  The result was an invitation to come watch the big fire in person. He arrived at project 31 – the process complex prop – shortly after the flames were ignited. One of the Shell instructors took time to explain the training scenario underway as the firefighters labored to extinguish the propane fed chemical operations fire. Slowly the hose teams moved about, pushing back the various flames until...
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Shell responder grew up surrounded by the refinery industry

    Working in a refinery is a career that can be unique for a young female college graduate. But refineries were an essential part of life where Shell process operator and emergency responder Victoria Reneau grew up. “It’s nice to be involved in something that you’ve been around your whole life but never really understood,” Reneau said. “Now I understand.” Norco, located 24 miles west of New Orleans, takes its name from the original refinery built there more than one hundred years ago, the New Orleans Refining Company The Shell Petroleum Corporation, a forerunner of Shell Oil Company, acquired the Norco Refinery in 1929. The chemical plant was added in 1955. The Shell Norco Manufacturing Complex, is an integrated petrochemicals asset that has the capacity to process 250,000 barrels of crude oil a day among other fuels. In addition, the site’s chemical plant produces ethylene and propylene, aromatic feedstocks, and...
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Montana ERT chief makes "Disasters Man-Made" required reading

    For most industrial emergency responders, “Disasters Man-Made” is something to read in your leisure time – whenever that is. But at the CHS Refinery in Laurel, MT, Emergency Response Coordinator Keith Metzger makes reading the book mandatory for his ERT. “I issued the book to my leadership team and others,” Metzger said. “I assign them a chapter each month. Then we hold a meeting where they highlight any areas of interest that might apply to us here.” “Disasters Man-Made,” written by David White and Anton Riecher, documents 31 post-World War II industrial emergencies that still hold lessons for us today. Published in 2011, the book cover dramatic events ranging from epic fires and hazardous materials spills to less headline-grabbing but crucial incidents that still raised havoc for emergency responders. Besides world-class refinery fires, the litany of industrial woes listed include a water-sensitive magnesium fire, an overtuned barge leaking acid,...
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LyondellBasell responders use new aerial in Brayton Fire Training Field scenario

      LyondellBassell’s new 100-foot platform aerial is becoming a familiar sight this spring at the Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station, TX. The aerial is being used as a basic component of the ERT’s training program, said Fire Chief Co DeBorde.  “It’s been going to Brayton every week in March for rescue training,” DeBorde said. “In April it will be going up every week for fire training.” Capable of pumping 3,000 gpm, the aerial was delivered to the LyondellBassell Bayport Complex in Pasadena, TX, by Pierce at the first of the year. Getting responders away from the plant long enough for training is usually difficult enough. Designating apparatus for that training is completely new, DeBorde said. “We are taking it up there and actually breaking it in while we train with it,” he said. Although rare, the use of aerial devices together with live-fire training projects at Brayton...
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Louisiana fire school advances to latest phase of expansion

  Every issue Industrial Fire World’s Incident Log column chronicles industrial emergencies worldwide. One repeat offender listed with regularity through the years is fires involving coffee roasters, ranging from specialty shop models to industrial mega monsters that handle up to 500 pounds per batch. Chip Elliott, a fire safety and process safety manager for Folgers Coffee in New Orleans, deals with the mega monsters.  “During the roasting process, the roasters build-up flammable carbon monoxide,” Elliott said. “An explosive atmosphere is present when CO levels exceed 15,000 parts per million.” Hence, Folgers needs firefighters close at hand. The coffee makers are only one of a wide variety of Louisiana concerns that turn to Delgado Community College’s Maritime and Industrial Training Center for emergency response training. “Before Delgado we had to do in-house training,” Elliott said. “Obviously, we don’t have the resources. We don’t have the life-size, live-fire props. We don’t have the...
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Revisiting the Gulf Coast hurricanes

During the month of Oct, 2017, two hurricanes, Harvey and Irma made landfall on the highly industrialized Texas Gulf coast within days of each other. Never in modern history has such a cataclysmic event descended upon an area so vital to the American economy. The destruction left in the wake of these storms has been unequaled in any memory and many were saying that recovery would take months and even years to accomplish. These people badly underestimated the stamina and resilience that is characteristic of Americans in general and those who live on the Gulf coast in particular as well as their ability and willingness to mobilize whatever resources were needed to mitigate damage and alleviate distress and suffering.    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It brought out the best in American culture; the first responders of all types; military, law enforcement, fire and...
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Adding an extran'P' for proper PPE

Whenever groups of hazardous materials responders get together, their conversation inevitably revolves around their most recent hazmat incidents. What was spilled, how big it was, how much damage was caused, and what they did to mitigate the incident are usually the main topics. Somewhere within the discussion someone will ask, “What level of PPE were you wearing?” Often, you will hear the ‘Alphabet Suit’ response. “It was so bad we had to go in at Level A. Even the decon team was in level A.” However, does the alphabet suit system fully explain how we chose the proper personal protective equipment (PPPE)?   Determining the Need for PPE In our training programs, we use the Benner D.E.C.I.D.E. model as a systematic approach to mitigating hazardous material incidents. The six-steps begin with detecting and identifying the chemical(s) involved in the incident. This is the key to any other actions that will be...
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ICS/NIMS training mission to Africa

I recently had the opportunity to conduct some emergency training in Africa. I had conducted training with this group once before, instructing a collapse course in South Africa with a touch of firefighter rescue thrown in; although the main focus of their training is generally the management of major incidents.  The USDA Forest Service (USFS) along with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) has conducted this training in several African Countries since 2009.  Initially the program was primarily focused on fighting forest fires. However as the program has evolved it has expanded to an all-hazard approach and is focusing on All Hazard National Incident Management System (NIMS) rather than only the Incident Command Systems (ICS).    The FDNY and the USFS had worked extensively together during operations following the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC), with the USFS assisting with incident management. This was to be the first...
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Handling ideas not invented here

This article was motivated by a recent Facebook post showing an elevated platform capable of reaching heights over 360 feet (110 meters). Most of the comments centered around the impracticality of it, including some downright negative opinions. Although I know of no US fire departments operating platforms anywhere near this height, taller platforms (not necessarily this tall) are common outside the United States. My thoughts about this are coupled with some personal experiences with fitness coaches where one would think the advice of another was the most ridiculous thing in the world. Being able to accept other ways of thinking can lead to better overall fire protection and unique solutions to unforeseen challenges. This was written a few days after Texas firefighters used the stream from a jet boat to extinguish a house fire that was inaccessible any other way due to the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. Other examples I...
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Jack Frost nipping at your extremities

It began as a normal day except Hank’s alarm didn’t go off and he was running late. He layered himself for the storm conditions, picked up his hat and gloves and rushed out the door.  Working for the State Highway department, his focus for the day – moving pristine white snow from the roads.  When moving massive amounts of snow he hit something under the snow.  It stopped the truck which forced him out of the truck to inspect for damage and remove what was blocking his path.   Digging out the snow around the truck took longer than expected.  He thought to radio for help, but this truck was a backup and without a radio.  His cell phone would not dial out as he was located in a low spot that didn’t allow him to dial out.  So, he buckled down and began to dig again, but his hands became...
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