In this lesson – we will discuss:
- What are Hazardous Materials
- How are they Classified
- The Dangers Associated with them
- How to determine your RISK LEVEL of them
Hazardous Material Accidents are Appearing in the Headlines More Frequently.
March 9, 2015 MotherJones article “Yet Another Oil Train Disaster“. An interesting article about theincrease in Hazardous Material spills. Some excerpts from the article: http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/oil-train-derailment-canada
- “Another day, another oil train derailment.”
- “This oil train derailment was the second in three days in Canada and the fifth in three weeks in North America.”
- “… derailments now appear to be the new normal.”
March 17, 2015 Reuters article “U.S. Senator calls for first-responder training for derailments.” The risks and dangers of shipping Hazardous Materials by rail car is starting to get attention of the of the federal government. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/us-senator-calls-for-first-responder-training-for-derailments/ar-AA9QnlL
In this article, Senator Bob Casey stated: “The increase in train derailments in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation is troubling and requires action.” The Senator also referenced the 2013 Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada train carrying crude oil that derailed and exploded killing 47 people, along with several other recent rail car accidents.
March 10, 2015 Emergency Management “1.5 Million People at Risk in Pennsylvania for Crude Oil Derailment, Study Says.” An article by Erie Times-News reports that “A federal report predicts 15 train carrying crude oil and ethanol in the United States could derail in 2015 alone. http://www.emergencymgmt.com/disaster/1-Million-People-Risk-Pennsylvania-Crude-Oil-Derailment.html
Here are some interesting statements and facts that came out of this article:
Approximately 11.5% of Pennsylvania’s population is at risk. This is just in one state.
The report indicated that: 327 K-12 schools, 37 hospitals and 61 nursing homes in the state are at risk from a derailment.
The rail lines are moving more than 1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil at a time. This is an enormous amount of Hazardous Material.
Pottstown, PA Fire Chief stated: “If something catastrophic happens, there’s no municipality along the railroad that can handle it; the volume is too great.” This was illustrated in West Virginia when firefighters were forced to let tank car fires burn for days before they were safe enough to extinguish.
On February 27, 2015 Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania, wrote a letter to President Obama asking for speedier action on improving crude-by-rail safety. The governor reported: “The potential for disaster it too great to ignore.”
November 7, 2013 “Danger on the tracks: Emergency crews in dark over train cargo.”
Check out the following news report and video clip of a train derailment caught on tape. This clip discusses the hidden dangers associated with the Hazardous Materials that are being transported right through the middle of our neighborhoods – literally right in our backyards – on a daily basis. http://www.wkyc.com/story/news/investigations/2013/11/06/re-routing-trains-carrying-hazardous-materials/3452769/
What are Hazardous Materials?
Hazardous Materials is defined as any substance or material that could adversely affect the safety of the public, the people handling it, the carriers who are transporting it or have a negative impact on the environment.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has nine classes of hazardous material.
Hazardous materials are all around us. They are used in the production of the products that we use, in our household cleaning chemicals, and the services we require on a daily basis like clean water and electricity.
The vast majority of the time they make our lives easier and more convenient. When used correctly, we are rarely even aware of their presence.
The problems come into play when hazardous materials are used unsafely or released in harmful amounts. This can result in serious injury, long-lasting health issues, damage to property, and even death.
Hazardous materials are manufactured, used or stored at around 4.5 million facilities throughout the United States. The United Nations Environmental Program estimates that more than 400 million tons of hazardous waste are produced worldwide each year.
- Use of or in the disposal stage.
Hazardous wastes can be in the form of:
- Or sludges.
Hazardous material can enter your body in any of the following ways:
- Inhalation – Breathing it in.
- Ingestion – Through contaminated food or water.
- Absorption – Through your skin.
Hazardous waste exhibit one of these four characteristics:
- Ignitability: Can create fires, are spontaneously combustible, and have a flash point less than 140o
- Corrosivity: Corrosive wastes are acids or bases. This type of waste is capable of corroding metals containers, storage drums and barrels.
- Reactivity: Reactive wastes are unstable under “normal” conditions. Can cause explosions, toxic fumes, gases or vapors when heated, compressed, or mixed with water.
- Toxicity: Are fatal when ingested or absorbed through the skin.
A brief history of hazardous material incidences.
January 2014, a hazardous chemical (4-methylclohexane methanol) used for washing coal was washed into the Elk River, West Virginia which is used as a drinking supply source for 300,000 people. This spill affected 9 counties in West Virginia. Many people got sick and safe drinking water had to be trucked in until the spill was cleaned up.
August 2012, Chevron Refinery, Richmond, VA. An explosion and fire at the refinery caused a huge black cloud to form over the refinery and the community. A “shelter-in-place” warning was issued for the area due to potential toxins in the air. Around 11,000 local residents went to the emergency room complaining about health problems.
August 2012, FedEx Hub at the Memphis Airport. A forklift operator punctured a 5-gallon container of substance used to make pepper spray. 117 FedEx workers needed to be treated for respiratory problems, itchy skin and burning eyes.
February 2008, Port Wentworth, GA. Explosion fueled by combustible sugar dust killed 13 people.
December 1984, Bhopal, India; the worst industrial chemical accident in history. Union Carbide released a cloud of methyl isocyanate over the city of Bhopal killing 2,000 people instantly and another 8,000 died later. Total estimated dead: 10,000 people.
Early Warning Signs and Protection from a Hazardous Material Accident:
Let it be Accidental or a Terrorist Attack.
You can get a lot of information from the everyday environment by just being observant and using some common sense.
Let’s start with a partial list of symptoms that may indicate exposure to some type of Hazardous Material Toxin. Be alert to any of one of them or a combination of them.
- Irrational or Delirious
- Dry Mouth
- The face and skin are very RED – Flush
- High heart rate and a high temperature.
- Problems seeing or possibly even blind. Very constricted (small) pupils.
- Heavy drooling
- Tearing and Runny Eyes
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Trouble Breathing
- Tightness in the chest.
Some other Early Warning Signs of Hazardous Material Toxins may be present in the area:
- If you come across a single person who is experiencing these symptoms there is a good chance that the person is having a medical issue. However, if you see several people suffering from the same symptoms – there is a good chance that there is a toxic substance present.
- Small animals are usually overcome faster by toxins than larger humans. If you see many sick or dying birds, fish, and/or small animals like rodents, squirrels, rabbits, etc. – there is a good chance that there is a toxic substance in the area.
- Be alert for pungent odors, vapors, clouds – anything out of the ordinary.
Steps to take to protect yourself from Hazardous Material Toxins:
You want to get as many barriers and distant between you and toxic substance. If you detect the event having the main presence outdoors, move indoors as soon as you can. If you see indicators that it is originating indoors, find a way out of the building as fast as you can. Bottom Line: When you don’t know what you are dealing with – keep adding barriers between you and the the contaminated area or object.
Try to get at least a a mile in distance between you and the contaminated area.
Try to stay: Upwind. UpHill. And Up Stream from the contaminated area.
If the toxins are located in a large multi-floored building, use floors to create barriers and distance between you and the contaminated area. Move preferable downward a few floors if possible. If the toxin is inside the building or is leaking into the building from a specific area or room, keep working yourself away from the contaminated area and towards an exit.
Monitor the news and social networks to get the most updated information.
Your social networks go beyond the typical FaceBook and Twitter sites. If you have friends, relatives, co-workers located in different locations, building group, etc. anyone who has the knowledge in how to monitor the news and social sites from the safety of a “Safe place”. Set your social network group up now. With a quick tweet, text message, or email from you – you alert your network to immediately start monitoring the news feeds so that they can summarize and advise the next best actions that you should be taking. They focus on monitoring, summarizing and reporting – you focus on surviving the event.
Listen to news feed regarding what the authorities are advising everyone to do; Shelter-In-Place, Evacuate, stay out of a specific area, Go-To a specific shelter, don’t use the subways…. whatever they tell you to do – do it. The experts will [hopefully] know what’s going on, the actual hazard you will be dealing with, and have access to the best people around to advise the best way to protect yourself from the Hazardous Material.
Consider having a pair of “Swimmers Goggles” to protect your eyes. These types of goggles will form a seal around your eyes to keep any dangerous materials away from your eyes. However, only put them on when you are outside of the contaminated area. If you put swimmer goggles on while you are in a contaminated area – you will trap any hazardous material inside the goggles and up against your eyes. You DON’T WANT THAT. Also, keep the goggles on until you are out of the contaminated area and in a known safe zone. Keep the seal intact until you know it is safe to remove.
If you have school aged children – discuss with the school what their policies are regarding a Shelter-In-Place or Evacuation event. If the authorities issue a Shelter-In-Place alert, and you go over to the school to get your kids – you may not even be able to enter the school. A Shelter-In-Place order means that the authorities have determined whatever the nature of the Hazardous Material accident, you will be safer not going outside and being exposed to the toxic. Read: The toxic agents can be absorbed through your skin or inhaled. This is not a good time to be outside. You can be doing more harm to yourself and other family members if you decide to go outside. This is the last thing you want to do.
If you have been exposed to the toxic agent:
Removing your clothes can quickly reduce your exposure by as much as 80%. Do not pull clothing over your head (T-Shirts, Sweatshirts, etc.) to take them off. That will just deposit what ever was on your clothes on to your head. Cut them off! You’re going to throw them out anyways – you need to control the transfer of any contaminants.
Washing your skin immediately afterwards further reduces your exposure to the toxins. Use lots of soap and water.
Remove contact lenses if there was a chance of contamination. Throw them out unless you really, really need to have them to see and you have no other options. If you do need to keep them (don’t have any clean replacement contacts or a set of eye glasses available)- then wash them, wash them again, and one more time. If you wear glasses, wash them vigorously before putting them back on.
If you are instructed to Shelter-In-Place:
Use a heavy vinyl sheeting to cover windows and doors with duct tape- you want to create a seal, a barrier, between you and the outside. Both vinyl sheathing and duct tape should be part of your basic Shelter-In-Place Kit. Your Shelter-In-Place Kit will be discussed in more detail in a upcoming lesson. Block any holes or gaps in the walls or doors with rags, newspapers, clothing; whatever you have to create the best seal that you can.
Do not use your air-conditioner or any other ventilation systems like a “Forced Hot Air” system. Shut down any air handling system inside your house. If you are in a large building, turn off your ventilation and take the additional step of sealing all vents with vinyl sheathing and duct tape. Close any dampers on any fireplaces. Put vinyl sheathing on the fireplace openings. Electrical switches and Outlets located on exterior walls can have big leakage problems associated with them. Cover them also with the vinyl and duct tape. Put wet towels at the bottom of the openings of doors to seal off any possible leakage into the house, apartment or room.
Designate a specific interior room as the “Shelter Room”. This room should be either have the smallest and fewest windows or better yet – no windows. Focus on making this room as the most sealed off room in the house. This is where you will hunker down until it is safe to come out. Before entering this room, remove all of your potentially contaminated clothing and get washed off. Put on new clothing. Make sure that any family member who come into contact with other potentially contaminated family members, have appropriate masks, gloves and protective clothing that can be disposed of after they are finished helping. Put all contaminated clothing in a double plastic bag and seal it shut. Do not bring this bag into your Shelter Room. Keep it out of the Shelter Room and preferably outside of the house. Any clothing that was in a closed closet or a closed drawer should be clean enough to wear.
If you are instructed to Evacuate:
Know which direction is the safe direction is before you attempt to evacuate – away from the contaminated area.
Know where your Evacuation Place is (where you will be evacuating to) – BEFORE leaving!
Have a supply of large plastic garbage bags available. Use these bags to cover up your Go-Bar or anything else that you will be transporting from inside your home to your evacuation vehicle. You can also cut a hole in a large plastic bag and use it to cover yourself (like a poncho) for additional protection. These bags will also be important for discarding contaminated clothing and objects.
A raincoat can offer protection if you are in a bind. A complete rain suite will even be better. You may want to consider a rain suite. It can be used for the rainy season and for a disaster situation – dual purpose it.
Before going outside, have clean clothes (in a sealed protective bag – the best method is to use a “Vacuum Sealed Bag”) that you can put on as soon as you reach your Bug Out Location. For the trip between your home and your Bug-Out Place wear: Long sleeve shirts (a long sleeve sweatshirt with hood is a good protective combination) and Long Pants, a hat, gloves, eye protection and a face mask. Consider using duct tape to seal the opening located at the end of your shirt sleeves and at the bottom of your pants. You want to create as many barriers as you can between you and the toxic components. As soon as you reach your Bug Out location, remove your clothes, wash up, and put the new clothes on. Discard all contaminated clothing as described earlier.
Depending upon the actual Hazardous Material present, a face mask or even a gas mask could be helpful in protecting your respiratory system. I personally favor having some type of respiration protection and think they should be part of everyone’s Shelter-In-Place kit and Bug Out Bag. Respiration protection devices will be discussed in full detail in an upcoming lesson. You may even want to consider a smoke escape hood for the elderly and children.
If you are instructed to evacuate to a public shelter and you don’t know where the nearest shelter is or maybe you are on vacation in an unfamiliar area… Text the word SHELTER followed by the Zip Code of where you are located to 43362. This is a direct text message to FEMA who will advise you the nearest shelters located to this ZIP Code.
Looking for Something Specific? Try our Category Listing Below.
In the News!
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What is RSEI – Risk Screening Environmental Indicator?
Because of all the different hazardous material that we can be exposed to, we need to identify some factors that will help us determine our risk. This can be a very complex task.
Luckily, The EPA has developed a computer-based screening tool that analyzes many of the factors that may result in chronic human risk. It’s called the RSEI (Risk Screening Environmental Indicator).
- The RSEI factors in the following:
- The amount of toxic chemical released.
- The level of toxicity of the chemical released (how dangerous the chemical is).
- The size of the exposed population.
For more information on RSEI please click here: Information on RSEI. http://www.epa.gov/oppt/rsei/pubs/basic_information.html
Determining Your Risk for Hazardous Material
There are 2 ways you can go about determining your risk levels for hazardous materials in your location.
The first is to contact your local LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Committees). These are local organization that assists in preparing for emergencies, particularly those concerning hazardous materials. These organizations may be able to supply you with information regarding the identification of facilities and transportation routes of hazardous materials that pass through the community and how their emergency response procedures are handled. You can either Google “LEPC” by your city or state name and a listing should be available. Each LEPC will be different and each will have different levels of information and assistance that they will offer.
The second method is to do the research yourself. It will take you about 15-minutes to do it. If you would like to do it yourself – please follow the directions below.
Below is a quick summary of each sources and what type of information that they can supply for our location.
1) The Right-To-Know Network: This site can help us identify specific risks from factories, storage facilities, environmental impact and other information for our specific location. All you do is plug in your City and State and the site generates a very complete report for your location. I suggest that you print it out and refer to it during your risk assessment research.
2) Toxic Risk is a good website that advises you of the places in your area that maintain a toxic inventory on site. You want to know who has the dangerous chemicals stored in your neighborhood – this website will tell you who and where they are.
3) Superfund Sites are uncontrolled or abandoned places where hazardous waste is located. These sites are listed on the National Priorities List and are a focus by the federal government to be cleaned up. Are any of these places in your backyard? It’s important for you to know.
4) The Rail Lines in your area. Do you know where they are located? If not – or if you just want to make sure – we supply a link that show a map of most of the rail lines located in the United states. Being that the bulk of hazardous material is shipped by rail car, it is extremely important to know where these lines are.
5) Truck Routes are another method for transporting hazardous material. All interstates and state routes can be used by these trucks. A map will be provided showing the interstates and state routes in your area.
6) Pipeline Networks in the United States. There are all sorts of chemicals being shipped through the pipe lines. Where these pipelines are located in proximity to your house is a very important thing to know. We have a link to a map that shows the pipeline networks so that you can answer this question.
7) Ports and Shipping Terminals are major activity centers for the handling, transferring, storing, and shipping of hazardous materials. You should know if any these facilities are near your location. We have the links to the websites that will answer this question for you.
Alright, let’s start determining our Risk Level of Hazardous Materials.
The Right-To-Know Network [RTKNet]. The RTKNet houses many resources which can be used to help us identify specific risks from factories, storage facilities, environmental impact and other information for our specific location. The Right-To-Know Network http://www.rtknet.org/
The RTKNet has several databases that can be searched: Toxic Releases, Spills & Accidents, Hazardous Waste, plus a few more. Fortunately, they offer a very easy solution for us to search our location: Simply called “Search By City All Databases”. http://www.rtknet.org/db/city/search
• Enter Your City and State. Then Click On GO.
• A report will be generated summarizing your location. If you want to print it – just click on the “Printer-Friendly” icon at the top of the report. We suggest that you do print it for future reference.
• There is a lot of good information in this report, but the following is the information that we will be using to determine our Risk Level for hazardous materials.
• Scroll down to the second section titled: RSEI – Risk Screening Environmental Indicators.
• Write down your location Total RSEI Score. The RSEI Score is a quick way to compare one location to another. The higher the RSEI Score the higher your potential of being exposed to hazardous materials will be.
• Right below the Total RSEI Score is: “Get list of all facilities”. Click on it.
• This will generate a Table listing all of the facilities in your city. Go to the Far Right Hand Column and Click On RSEI Score. This will rank the RSEI score from high to low.
• You want to know where the facilites are located that have a RSEI Score over 1000.
• Record the following information on your Risk Assessment Sheet: List the names of any of these facilities that are less than 2 miles from you location or from where someone in the family may work. If there are any facilities that meet this criterion – add 2 points to your Risk Level.
Here is a short video on how to use the “Rite-To-Know” website.
Toxic Risk is a good website that combines Google Maps with the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory data. All you have to do is “zoom in” on your location and you can see the places in your area are that may have a toxic inventory. www.toxicrisk.com
Note: Due to the number of facilities located, some areas have a very high concentration of companies. You may have to zoom in pretty close to get the label to display the location information (Company Name and Potential Hazardous Material located at the facility).
• Zoom in on your location – or the location you are researching.
• Identify any facility that is located within 2 miles of where you are located or work.
• Record the following information on your Risk Assessment Sheet: List the names of any of these facilities that are less than 2 miles from you location or from where someone in the family may work.
Superfund Sites: A Superfund site is an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, possibly affecting local ecosystems or people. Superfund Sites are listed on the National Priorities List and is public information listed by the EPA.
E.P.A. Envirofacts -Clean Up My Community
The E.P.A. has given us a quick and easy way to check our area for potentially dangerous sites.
• In the GREEN box below Just Enter your ZIP Code and CLICK on the “LIST IT” button. I found using the “LIST IT” option makes things easier and more detailed. Click on the magnifying glass just to the right of your ZIP Code or just hit enter.
• This will give you a list of sites for that Zip Code that are classified by the EPA as either “Of Interest” or “Have Been Cleaned Up.”
• If there are no sites in the ZIP Code then you’ll just get a report back stating; “No Cleanup Data Found.” Which indicates that ZIP Code is clear. At that point – you really don’t need to do anything else regarding your Superfund Site research.
• However, if the site is within 2-miles of any of your critical locations – then you will need to do a little more research.
• Back on the list page, look for the column titled “REPORTS AVAILABLE”. You will need to review these reports and determine the current clean-up status for the site.
• The RCRA Report is divided up into 3 columns:
° Site Location
° Clean Up Progress
° Environmental Impact Summary
• The “Clean Up Summary” and the “Environmental Impact Summary” columns will give you the details regarding the progress of the clean up.
How to determine your Risk Level of a Superfund Site near your location.
• If there are no sites within your ZIP Code: Add 0 Points to your Risk Level score.
• If there is a site located within your ZIP Code – but is more than 2-miles away: Add 0 Points to your Risk Level Score.
• If there is a site located within your ZIP Code – but the EPA indicates that it has been cleaned up: Add 1 point to your Risk Level score.
• If there is a site located within your ZIP Code and the EPA indicates: under evaluation, currently insufficient information or currently being cleaned up: Add 2 points to your Risk Level Score.
Hazardous material can be transported by:
Truck, Train, Ship and by Pipelines.
Let’s discuss hazardous material transportation by Train first. The bulk of hazardous material is shipped by rail cars and it is very safe methods of transportation – very rarely are there any accidents. However, when there is an accident – it can be a disaster. This problem is made more difficult by the following situation. The railroads do not have to report what they are transporting on any given line or any given train – Unless there is an accident.
If you didn’t check out the video at the beginning of this lesson – here is another opportunity to see it.
After an accident occurs – the railroad then gives the information over to the local response team who is dealing with the accident. As frustrating as this may be for a family to be able to plan for these accidents – it is even more frustrating for the first responders. The First Responders position: Be Ready for Anything at Any Time. This is the same philosophy we should be taking.
So, we are going to assess our Risk for hazardous material from a rail accident similar to the way that we addressed it for the chemical plants and Superfund Sites. Being that we don’t know which tracks lines will be carrying hazardous materials – we will assume that they all do. And we will use the conservative approach that we are in a potential danger zone if we are located within 2 miles of a railroad track line.
If you are not sure if where the rail lines are for your area – click on the Blue Button below for a map showing the major railroads in the United States. Map of Major Rail Lines http://maps.google.com/gallery/details?id=z4f-ZuCLmiKg.ku-u9SgTOygc&hl=en
Zoom into your location. Are there any rail lines within 2 miles of your location or where someone in the family works? This question just gets answered Yes or No. If you answer YES – then Add 1 Point to your Risk Level.
We will be using a similar logic to determine our Risk Assessment for Trucks, Ships and Pipelines.
For Trucks: We will use Google Maps to determine how far our location is from an Interstate or a State Route.
• Enter your Address into the search bar.
• You may have to scroll out to get a better view of the area.
• You want to identify how far your location is from an Interstate [indicated on Google Maps with the Red White & Blue Shield] or a State Route which will be indicated by a Number with a Circle Around it.
Are there any Interstates or State Routes within 2 miles of your location or where someone in the family works? This question just gets answered Yes or No. If you answer YES – then Add 1 Point to your Risk Level.
For Pipelines we are going to use the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS). The NPMS indicates gas transmission pipelines and hazardous liquid trunklines located throughout the United States. Please note the following with this service: For security reasons, you can zoom in only so much – but it should be good enough to get a general location of one of these pipelines in relationship to your location.
If you would like more information about this website and the use of this tool, please click on this link:
• Near the bottom of the page , Choose Your State from the Drop Down Menu.
• Next, choose the county you are investigating.
• The Map Scale is down in the lower left hand corner.
• Use the scale to estimate the distance from your location to one of the pipe lines indicated either in RED or BLUE.
Are there any Pipelines within 2 miles of your location or where someone in the family works? This question just gets answered Yes or No. If you answer YES – then Add 1 Point to your Risk level.
Final Section to investigate is Ports and Shipping Terminals:
If you are located inland more than 10 miles, from a coast line, a major river, or major lake – you do not need to do this investigation.
We will be using a website called: World Port Source.
• Zoom into your location.
• Note the legend underneath the map – the colored balloons will tell you the size of the port.
• Identify any ports that are within 2 miles of your location or where a family member may work.
Are there any Ports or Shipping Terminals within 2 miles of your location or where someone in the family works? This question just gets answered Yes or No. If you answer YES – then Add 1 Point to your Risk level.
OK, that completes the gathering of the information. Please refer to your “Hazardous Material Risk Level Exercise Form” that you printed out at the beginning of this program and insert the information that you accumulated. After you add up all of your points – put the total number into your Risk Level chart that you have been keeping for your location.
This is what you should be taking away from this lesson:
- What are Hazardous Materials.
- How are hazardous materials classified.
- What are the dangers associated with hazardous Materials.
- What are some of the common symptoms associated with being contaminated by Hazardous Material.
- What steps can you take to protect yourself during a Hazardous Material Accident. Both Inside and Outdoors.
- How to determine your Risk Level of being impacted by a Hazardous material Accident.
Congratulations – You just completed the Hazardous Material lesson. This lesson was rather long because there are so many different variable that needed to be considered.
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