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train derailments
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Disaster Preparation Series 04: Chemical
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Disaster Preparation Series 04: Chemical

In this article we discuss the possibility of a chemical disaster in your area. We all know that emissions from chemical manufacturing or processing facilities after an explosion or during fire can put harmful substances in the atmosphere. We also know that chemical spills can put harmful chemicals into the ground and that they can then be conducted to our drinking water.

When my family lived in Pittsburgh one of the local companies accidentally dumped phenol into our drinking water. It tasted nasty but harmed no one that I know of. Chemicals can also be added to our environment by evil people who want to kill but are not specific to who they will kill. Anyone will do. FEMA is concerned about this one.

Some years back, on several occasions, people put deadly poisons into medicine capsules and put them on the shelves of drug stores. Our only protection here is a warning from the government and the careful inspection of all drug packaging at time of purpose. I guess you have noticed that children coming to your door on Halloween may be aware of this kind of evil and may not take what you have to offer.

Trucks carry dangerous chemicals on our highways. Some are not that dangerous but the emergency response teams always take every measure to make sure a spilled chemical does not cause harm. More dangerous are train derailments that may put tons of harmful substances in the environment. Almost always in such situations an evacuation order is given and people living within a certain radius of the wreck will have to leave their homes at least temporarily.

In 1984 in Phopal India, methyl isocyanate gas leaked from Union Carbide’s plant a few miles our of town and killed hundreds. The repercussion of this disaster were immense with legal actions and changes in the chemical industry. Cyanide compounds are horrible killers but death comes quickly in most cases.

The worst chemical disaster in the United States occurred a the port in Texas City, Texas in 1947. A French vessel caught fire and released 2300 tons of ammonium nitrate. The fires and violent explosions that spread from the ship killed 581 people. This brought a class action suit against the United States government. The sodium nitrate, used in fertilizers and explosives, was made in the Midwest and transported to Texas for export. Loaders said the bags were warm when they loaded them. That should have spelled, Watch Out!

Fear of chemical attack such as occurred with the German’s first use of chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas during the Great War, WWI caused the British government to issue gas masks to civilians during WWII. I was a consultant to a Midwest governor when the government wanted to transfer phosgene left over from WWII across our state.

Years before my company had a phosgene accident when a chlorinated solvent leaked into one of our heat-treatment operation. I took two ladies to the hospital in my car and I wasn’t sure one of them was going to make it. She remained hospitalized for weeks. Phosgene is readily formed from chlorinated solvent if heated.

Fortunately Denver had a program to respond to a chemical incident because of the proximity of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. The hospital easily took care of 23 victims as soon as they were transmitted to the hospital by car or ambulance. Only two had to remain in the hospital for more than a day or two.

My boss became angry with a newspaper reporter who pulled the oxygen mask from one of our employees. The reporter swore he would make a big fuss in the paper about the accident. My boss said that he would not and the paper played down the accident. (We bought lots of advertising.)

So what can you do if you get involved in such a chemical mess? The best thing is to remove yourself from the chemical environment. If your clothing has been contaminated, remove them, put them in a plastic garbage bag, and take a shower.

If I lived near a chemical hazard, I would consider buying a gas mask specific to the chemical. If I though I might at some time be evacuated, I would have a survival kit of some kid to provide for my family for a few days. My kit would include food and water, flashlights, and essential medications.

Fly Old Glory!


Street Talk

Good post. Knowing how to survive an event that involves "Chemical Warfare" should be greatly considered by everyone who feels they are "prepared for everything". - Straight Forward Prepper

Reply
  about 9 years ago
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