Emergency Spill Response
In the fire service we are called to a multitude of different emergencies. When teaching I often say, “you never know what you will find so plan for anything!” One of the things we occasionally respond to is the unintentional release of materials. On a recent call we had a relatively minor vehicle accident that resulted in a large release of diesel fuel. For this month’s drill let’s take a look at how your department is equipped to deal with this type of emergency.
When responding to a spill begin with identifying what the chemical is. In this drill’s case let’s use diesel fuel. In route, check the weather conditions. This includes temperature, wind, moisture, etc. Check the Emergency Response Guidebook for initial actions to take. Position your vehicles uphill and upwind. The priorities of action are as follows. First protect your crew. Keep your distance and follow the response guide. Sometimes no action is correct. Second is to protect the public/victims. Following appropriate measures of protection to perform any rescue needed. Third is to protect the environment. This is done by limiting the release of material and containing it as best as you can. In this drill let’s say there are no victims at risk but there is a storm drain about 50 ft. from the spill.
After confirming your team and the victims are safe, we will now move toward containment. In this case we have a large tear in the front corner of the fuel tank with about 150 gallons of fuel in it. Upon arrival there is about 30 gallons already on the ground headed toward the storm drain. We began by using floor dry to make a dam to stop the flow towards the drain. We then applied absorbent tubes to strengthen the dam. Due to the location of the tear, we did not have a plug that fit. We placed a small bucket and then our inflatable pool under the leak. These actions prevented any additional impact on the environment. We secured a hand transfer pump and offloaded the remainder of the fuel as well as that we had contained in the pool. We did not have any “plug and seal” on our truck at this time but we do plan on adding it to our response kit.
Upon completion, the department should be able to…
• Discuss the departments safe personal vehicle operating procedures for a chemical spill
• Discuss what tools and equipment you have to deal with this type of situation
• Determine what steps you would take to mitigate such an incident in your area.
Scott Meinecke is a member of the Sheldon Volunteer Fire Department, Director of Safety for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, and field staff for the Fire Service Training Bureau. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com