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Run walk or crawl for your life!

April 8, 2013 - Michael Palmer
If you can't run – CRAWL!

A chemical spill has just happened! What do I do?

If you can't walk or run, crawl away from the scene of the accident as fast as your little elbows can propel you.

The recent disaster drill in Scio brought up a point - I guess logically we should have all expected but it caught me off guard.

Two sixth graders, Autumn Ash and Sara Bethel were portraying victims of the tanker spill and Jewett Volunteer Firefighter Douglas Albaugh was the truck driver who according to script had suffered a heart attack causing the spill.

Noticing the two young girls with bicycles by their sides positioned under the truck a local mother on a walk was very agitated when a group of firefighters came on scene and retreated without checking the victims. “Do I need to call someone?” she called out.

Dave Ivan director of the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency was an evaluator for the event and he explained the perceived inaction, “The best tool a firefighter can have in a chemical spill is a pair of binoculars,” Ivan said. “This allows first responders to size up the scene from a safe location; that’s uphill/upwind and read the placards from a safe distance if possible.”

“Bystanders can create a larger problem when they attempt to help and are exposed to the chemicals,” said Scott King of the Ohio EMA liaison for Harrison County. “The proper procedure is to isolate the immediate hazard area and deny entry and then finally after assessing the danger, using proper equipment and procedures we can perform rescues if possible.”

Emergency responders must identify the chemical involved and approach it properly in the appropriate safety gear. Until they have completed the check list for their own safety and the safety for the surrounding community, the victims are on their own until the scene is assessed.

Thus my title - if you can crawl, get crawling. Seriously though, you should always be alert to danger. With proper knowledge, you can decide what is the best plan for you. A big part of your Safety Plan is figuring out what you would do if you:

Use your 5 senses.

SENSE something SMELL a sharp odor SEE a cloud hugging the ground TASTE some bitter gas HEAR or FEEL an explosion Potential dangers of chemicals are everywhere. Use your five senses... STAY ALIVE WITH ALL FIVE!

It is always a good idea to avoid circumstances that could put people at risk from exposure to chemicals. If the odor of smoke or chemicals is in the air, immediately consider if there may be a danger and take steps to protect your home and people. It is natural to be curious when smoke or chemical odors are seen or smelled, but even house fires can release dangerous smoke, and industrial fires or chemical releases can be even more dangerous. So unless you know, stay away from the smoke and odors. Until you are certain of the source of the odors and smoke, initiate Shelter-In-Place Steps 1,2, and 3 and call the fire department.

Step 1 Move inside a building (house, apartment, or church) immediately. Step 2 Close and lock all windows and doors. Step 3 Turn off all ventilation systems.

You may be the first to see or suspect a chemical spill. If in doubt, report it immediately.

If you are reporting an emergency to fire or police departments, dial 9-1-1, or the emergency numbers for the police and fire departments, and state the following:

Location of emergency (street and city). Nature of emergency (what person or things are involved, extent, causes). Location you are calling from. Phone number you are calling from.

With all of the drilling and gas related activity and trucking in the area, it is also important to know your: Chemical Classification & Safety Signs for a little light reading through your binoculars.

The National Fire Protection Association - NFPA uses a symbol system designed as a diamond-shaped label containing four differently colored squares. A number (0 - 4) or an abbreviation is added to each square indicating the order of hazard severity. The higher the number, the greater the hazard.

Red Background Flammability 4 - flash point < 73 oF 3 - flash point < 100 oF 2 - flash point > 100 oF < 200 oF 1 - flash point > 200 oF 0 - will not burn

Yellow Background Reactivity 4 - explosive at room temp 3 - shock and heat may detonate 2 - violent reaction with water 1 - unstable if heated, not violent 0 - not reactive with water

Blue Background Health Hazard 4 - deadly 3 - extreme danger 2 - hazardous 1 - slightly hazardous 0 - normal material

White Background Specific Hazard oxidizer OX acid ACID alkali ALK corrosive CORR use NO WATER

There, that is what you should know. However, it is our nature to help our fellow man when they are in need.

I fear that I would be an additional victim if I come across such a scene. What is the old saying; For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

The article is in Thursday's edition and the photos are up on CU.


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