An independent federal agency investigating chemical accidents to protect workers, the public, and the environment.

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Emergency Response

Inadequate or poor emergency planning or response, has been a recurring finding in the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board’s (CSB’s) investigations. One of the very early CSB investigations, the Herrig Brothers Farm Propane Tank Explosion, made an emergency response recommendation for training for firefighers, as did the recently closed West Fertilizer Investigation. 

CaptureTo date, 14 CSB investigations have found deficiencies in a community’s, facility’s or emergency responder’s response to an incident at a chemical facility. The majority of CSB’s recommendations relating to emergency response can be categorized in the following areas:

  • Training for emergency responders, including hazardous materials training;
  • Local emergency planning, and community response plans and teams;
  • Use of community notification systems;
  • Use of an incident command system and the National Incident Management System;
  • Conducting emergency response exercises;
  • Information sharing between facilities, emergency responders and the community; and
  • Communication during emergencies (including 911 operator communication, interoperability of radios, etc).

In 2009, the CSB released a safety video based on ten years of emergency response recommendations and investigations. Despite the CSB’s many recommendations, emergency responders continue to be fatally injured due to poor emergency planning response which is why the CSB identified improving emergency planning and response as a "Driver of Critical Chemical Safety Change" to elevate the issue of protecting emergency responders and communities near chemical facilities.

West Fertilizer Company Explosion and Fire, West, Texas, 2013

The West Fertilizer Company explosion and fire that occurred on April 17, 2013, resulted in the death of 15 people, 12 of which were first responders. The CSB found during its investigation that the West Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD) did not conduct pre-incident planning or response training at the WFC facility to address FGAN-related incidents because was no such regulatory requirement. The firefighters who responded to the WFC fire did not have sufficient information to make an informed decision on how best to respond to the fire at the fertilizer facility. CSB also found that Federal and state of Texas curriculum manuals used for hazardous materials (HAZMAT) training and certification of firefighters placed little emphasis on emergency response to storage sites containing FGAN.

NDK_image2CSB Investigations involving emergency response and planning:

West Fertilizer Explosion and Fire

MFG Chemical Inc. Toxic Gas Release

Universal Form Clamp Co. Explosion and Fire

Herrig Brothers Farm Propane Tank Explosion

Georgia-Pacific Corp. Hydrogen Sulfide Poisoning

DPC Enterprises Festus Chlorine Release

First Chemical Cops. Reactive Chemical Explosion

Honeywell Chemical Incidents

DPC Enterprises Glendale Chlorine Release

EQ Hazardous Waste Plant

Little Propane General Store

CITGO Refinery Hydrofluoric Acid Release and Fire

Bayer CropScience Pesticide Waste Tank Explosion

Hoeganaes Corporation Fatal Flash Fires

Revision of State and Federal Emergency Planning and Response RegulationsLaPorteAnimation

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

  • OSHA has plans to revise 29 CFR 1910.156 which would replace the fire brigade rule with a broader rule, tentatively titled the “Emergency Responder Preparedness Program Standard”. This regulation which would set requirements for planning, training, worker health and fitness and vehicle operations.

California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA)

  • California has proposed two new rules for refineries in its California Accidental Release Prevention Program, which would require between emergency response coordination between refineries and unified program agencies.



Last Updated August 26, 2016

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