Home Podcasts THMG153 – Acrolein, Part II

THMG153 – Acrolein, Part II


Mike and Bob continue to break down one of the best chemicals for instructors to use for scenarios out there. We discuss the incredible chemical and physical properties that will give students the scratching of the head that we are looking for in our classes.

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  1. Case studies 153
    1. in 1999 occurred when the applicator accidentally ran over and damaged parts of the delivery system, spilling a few gallons of the product. The applicator proceeded, without personal protective equipment, to close off the cylinder valve of the delivery system. He then washed himself off in the canal and traveled to the hospital where he was treated and then released. He was later found unconscious in his home and died the next day.
    2. in 2007 occurred when the applicator was sprayed directly in his face with acrolein that was under pressure, after he attempted to tighten a connection in the delivery system. An initial evaluation showed signs of respiratory distress so he was transported to a medical center where he received immediate treatment. Despite the treatment, the individual died within several days
    3. This next case study shows us the importance again that doing nothing is a viable option. In 1982 with the town of Taft (don’t know stat) rain water was believe to have made its way into a tank containing over 480,000lb of acrolein. When this tank blew and caught fire it set fire to other near by acrolein tanks. The tanks burned for almost 24 hour before the fire died out. Due to the fact that the poisonous product was being consumed by the fire its self, no effort was made to attempt to put the fire out. A total of 5 surrounding towns were evacuated until extent of contamination was determined.
      1. You know they had almost 17,000 people evacuated. It was only 30 miles from New Orleans
        1. Ya but if anyone was prepared to be evacuated it would be this place. They have about 15 massive industrials sites, a nuclear power plant. Infact at the time of the incident they were said to have the highest concentration of NH3 in the free world.
        2. An airport is near by as well. Which may not sound like much of a risk but consider what a plane crash into one of these chemical plants might do. Not even to talk about the miles of pipe like that carry all sorts of crap.
        3. If you look at the history of this area they are indicated with all sorts of hazmat accidents. Chlorine gas leaks, manufacturing plant explosions, hurricanes, train derailments, pipe line.
            1. So in this case study the event started the day before. At about 9pm on Friday the 10th the workers at the faculty started to get indications that the acrolein was heating up. Never a good thing when you dealing with an thermal unstable chemical!
        4. At 11pm the company started to evacuate the area of there plant that contained the tanks. At about 12 am the local parish sheriff office was notified, But they were notified as a low level non emergency,
        5. You know that’s just like a heads up we got some shit happening here.
                  1. The controller that called actually told them they had it under control and it was not an issue.
        6. So it gets even better, according to after action critique ,” While the message was primarily seen as a notification of a minor internal emergency, the person in the Sheriff’s Department who received the call, checked a hazardous material manual regarding the nature of acrolein, tried to contact the EOC Director (who was out of town), and talked about the matter with her supervisor. Also, upon receiving calls about sirens in the locality, the Sheriff’s Department called on the Hotline; the phone rang, but no one answered.”
        7. “About this time the sheriff’s office started to receive calls from individual citizens asking about evacuation routes and shelters. These callers had been previously contacted by relatives who worked at Union Carbide and were among those evacuated from the plant. Soon the two officers on duty were swamped with numerous phone calls, the first indication received by any public emergency organization that there might be a far more serious situation than suggested by the first message from the plant.”
        8. At 12:50 a.m., the tank in the plant exploded and a fire erupted. The noise was heard more than five miles away, with some people taking it for thunder. Some windows were broken in Norco, about a mile and a half away. More than 400 claims were filed for property damage. The greatest number of claims against Union Carbide the week after the explosion were for motel expenses or lost wages. One claimant, according to a newspaper account, said “the explosion cracked the concrete foundation under his house.” Fire alarms were also set off in a number of places in the parish. The locals responded quickly and the sheriffs established a roadblock about a have a mile away at 1am. Which was moved back about 10 min later,
        9. Because this area is so high risk all these different parishes or government entities in surrounding areas all have there own EOC. Bye 130 some of the surrounding parishes started to activate there EOC.
        10. At about 2 am the plant tells officials that there is no danger to the public At 4:22 a.m., a message was received from the plant manager recommending the evacuation of all persons within a five mile radius of the plant. It was said this decision was reached because the other five tanks near the fire contained sufficiently large amounts of acrolein to create an even greater explosion than had already occurred and that a chain reaction was possible. This apparently was the first time the local public authorities were told about the additional tanks and the danger they * posed. The distance of five miles appears to have been picked on the basis of technical knowledge regarding what could occur, but with a leaning to “err on the side of safety.” Thus, while there was very little wind at the time, it could arise in any direction. However, the fact that the * distance recommended might have been on the high side, or the factors supporting the recommendation, were not communicated at all when the message was sent. As it turned out, and as we shall note later, those imple- * menting the evacuation (for a variety of reasons) did not accept the five mile radius as a minimum. As one official said, “we were arbitrary on selecting a point to which we would evacuate.”
        11. Ok wait doesn’t the ERG suggest a 3 mile.
                  1. Ya.
                  2. So some might ask why not just do a 3 mile?
                  3. Because lets us not forget that the ERG is starting point. Its to get you moving and doing something. And event is always changing. Its so important to be flexible and constantly reevaluating the situation.
        12. So the plant gave a 5 mile evacuations recommendation. The people running the EOC assumed that because it was coming from the plant that it was backed up by reason and data. When in fact it was just an arbitrary distance!
                  1. Yup, just showing again why its so important to cross reference data and suggestions independently. Now I am not saying it was right or wrong, maybe it was educated guess or eni mimi miney moo style, but that cant make you feel good as a IC that you only evacuated a distance based upon someone else arbitrary selection.
                  2. Now interesting thing to keep in the back of your head, this land near the Mississippi river. Who lets those boats no they cant travel on the river.
        13. The coast guard,
        14. Ya and no one notified them until hours later!. So many moving parts. No matter how prepared you think your area is to undergo any evacuation there are always things your going to miss. Run your local drills, run your exercises and create your protocols.
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