Sunday, January 25, 2015


Tell fire department
What’s inside building


THE OTHER DAY a fire destroyed a warehouse that contained propane tanks.

The firefighters "discovered" the propane containers when they heard the "hiss" of escaping gas.

Actually, escaping gas is a good thing; it usually means the cylinder won't explode spraying shrapnel all over the place and releasing a fiery cloud of gas.


The fire department - in fact ALL first responders - firefighter, police, EMTs - need to know

  1. What hazardous materials are inside a structure
  2. Where those hazardous materials are stored
  3. How to deal with the hazardous materials

All hazardous materials come with - or should come with - a material safety data sheet (MSDS), a safety data sheet (SDS), or a product safety data sheet (PSDS).

PVC Hazardous Data Sheet
Click on image to enlarge

Most companies that store large quantities of dangerous materials - such as the chemical plants near Charleston WV and the air bag company near Lakeland FL (Type A explosives) have at least annual exercises with the local fire brigade.

This assures that in the event of an accident, the responders know how to attack the issue - water vs. foam vs. letting something burn out - and what special Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is needed.

The exercises also test the organization's ability to account for all its personnel who might have been in the accident area.

    This accountability procedure or process should be part of every exercise that requires evacuations and can be accomplished in a number of different ways, depending on the organization and the accident.

Organizations do NOT need to have large quantities of hazardous materials on hand - a couple of tanks of propane, some materials that emit a noxious and dangerous gas when damaged (by fire or mishandling). Consider

  • Batteries
  • Cleaning solutions and rags
  • Fertilizer
  • Gasoline containers
  • Paint and related chemicals
  • Propane and methane
  • Tires

Most of the above can be found in homes as well as business sites.

I don't know of ANY jurisdiction that charges for a fire marshal's inspection, nor do I know of any jurisdiction that charges to participate in an organization's annual exercise.

It is a win-win for all concerned, but unless its an enforced law that organizations invite emergency responders to visit and make safety inspections and recommendations, organizations should take it upon themselves to invite emergency responders - fire, police, and paramedics - to acquaint themselves with the properties and any hazardous materials.

Having an annual evacuation exercise in conjunction with local emergency personnel should be part of every risk management plan; besides, it's just good business.

And while you are inviting emergency responders to visit, consider inviting a risk expert from your insurance carrier; you might find ways to lower insurance costs by lowering risks.

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