CSB Receives Award for Safety Video on West Virginia Propane Explosion that Killed Four; Production Called “Extremely Effective”

August 14, 2009
            Washington, DC, August 14, 2009 – The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) received a key communication award from a major online learning and teaching organization for a CSB Safety Video on the West Virginia propane explosion that killed four people when a convenience store blew up in January 2007. 
            The award, presented Thursday, August 13, 2009 by the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, or MERLOT, was the organization’s first-ever Fire Safety Editorial Board Classics Award. It was issued in the category of “Exemplary Materials” in teaching and learning
            CSB Director of Public Affairs Dr. Daniel Horowitz accepted the award at a ceremony Thursday night at a MERLOT conference in San Jose, California. Dr. Horowitz stated, “We are pleased to have this recognition of the CSB Safety Video program. Our videos have been played millions of times online and we have distributed almost 100,000 free DVDs to chemical safety stakeholders, including members of the public.” Dr. Horowitz was selected to give a presentation on the CSB Safety Video program to MERLOT conference attendees on Saturday, August 15. 

            The video, “Half an Hour to Tragedy,” derives its name from the approximately 30 minutes that passed while a convenience store in Ghent, West Virginia, filled with propane from a leak that occurred in a tank placed too close to the store. The video features a computer animation depicting the sequence of events in which propane technicians and emergency responders failed to evacuate the store and perished when the propane inside ignited.
            MERLOT’s online website (www.merlot.org) features over 20,000 teaching and learning materials from a wide spectrum of disciplines. A peer review board in one area, fire safety, evaluated the CSB video, recommending it for “Motivation and training for first responders and those working in the HazMat response professions, including initial and recurrent training.”

            The peer review, available through the MERLOT website, states, “Extremely effective. This should get the point across to everyone about how to handle HazMat emergencies; in particular, propane.”  

            MERLOT’s website notes the organization’s strategic goal is to “improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning by increasing the quantity and quality of peer reviewed online learning materials that can be easily incorporated into faculty designed courses.”

            CSB Chairman John Bresland said, “We are honored by this award. Our safety videos visually reinforce the information gathered in our official CSB investigations of chemical accidents, such as the tragedy that struck the convenience store in Ghent. We thank MERLOT for the recognition and are pleased particularly that the Fire Safety Editorial Board found so much to recommend in our video.”   
            Chairman Bresland noted that many CSB videos are in wide use in emergency responder training, particularly a video released earlier in the year, entitled “Emergency Preparedness: Findings from CSB Accident Investigations.” The video uses computer animations, interviews, and news footage to depict a series of chemical accidents that illustrate the need for effective training, communications, and community planning. In some incidents, firefighters and police were overcome by toxic chemicals and forced to retreat from neighborhoods; in others, firefighters and workers were tragically killed and others injured. 
            CSB videos are available online at www.CSB.gov, and on YouTube. They can be ordered free of charge as a two-DVD set by filling out the request form in the Video Room of www.CSB.gov.     

            The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. 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 issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website,

            For more information, contact Director of Public Affairs Dr. Daniel Horowitz, 202-261-7613, cell 202-441-6074, or Sandy Gilmour, 202-261-7614, cell 202-251-5496.
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