Administrator expands list of WTC-related health conditions

Dr. John Howard, the administrator of the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, has published an interim final rule in the Federal Register, http://1.usa.gov/1goaek2, that was effective on February 18, 2014. Written comments from interested parties on this interim rule must be received by April 21, 2014.

No types of cancer covered by the WTC Health Program in the original 2012 List of Conditions and prostate cancer, added in 2013, are being removed from the List. In addition, four types of cancer—malignant neoplasms of the brain, the cervix uteri, the pancreas, and the testis—will be newly eligible for certification as WTC-related health conditions. Also, childhood cancer is defined as “any cancer diagnosed in a person less than 20 years of age.” Other proposed revisions are explained at the above site.

According to Ben Chevat, executive director, 9/11 Health Watch, if the proposed rule is finalized, 9/11 responders and survivors would be able to receive treatment for these cancers, and they or their survivors could file a claim with the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Line-of-Duty Deaths

January 26. Firefighter James A. Dickman, 31, Toledo (OH) Fire and Rescue Department: injuries sustained while searching in a fire structure.
January 26. Firefighter Stephen A. Machcinski, 42, Toledo (OH) Fire and Rescue Department: injuries sustained while searching in a fire structure.
January 28. Chief Rick Winkles, 53, Trumann (AR) Fire Department: heart attack.
January 31. Pilot Jake Harrell, 34, Arkansas Forestry Commission, Little Rock: apparently crashed while on a fire detection flight; investigation underway.
February 1. Firefighter/EMT-I Michael Dale Garrett, 28, Nutter Ford (WV) Fire Department: injuries sustained in a secondary collapse while rescuing a victim of a phone tower collapse.
February 1. Firefighter Dwight Hilton, 57, East Central Volunteer Fire Department, Liberty, MS: heart attack.

FCC votes to improve location accuracy of wireless 911 callers

At the end of February, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed rules to update the Commission’s Enhanced 911 (E911) rules that would assist responders in locating callers from wireless phones, especially those calling from indoors.

The previous rules, adopted in 1996 and last revised in 2010, required wireless providers to transmit information to 911 call centers on the location of wireless callers within certain parameters for accuracy. However, these rules were based solely on the performance of outdoor wireless 911 calls. Since that time, many Americans have replaced landline phones with wireless phones, and calling patterns have changed. It has been reported that nearly 73 percent of 911 calls in California are made from wireless phones and that approximately 80 percent of smartphone use occurs indoors.

This Commission proposal covers indoor location accuracy as well, including indoor environments such as large multistory buildings, where first responders often cannot determine the floor or even the building where the 911 call originated.

In the near term, the FCC proposes that wireless providers be able to accurately identify the building of origin for most indoor calls and the vertical location information that would enable first responders to identify the floor level for most calls from multistory buildings.

In the long term, the FCC is planning to develop more granular indoor location accuracy standards that would include identifying the specific room, office, or apartment from which a wireless 911 call is made. To accomplish these goals, there must be advancement of the capabilities of indoor location technology and an increase in the deployment of in-building communications infrastructure.

The FCC is seeking comments on its proposal and suggestions for additional steps it can take to strengthen the existing E911 rules “to ensure delivery of more timely, accurate, and actionable location information for all wireless 911 calls.” Also, the Commission “is seeking comment on whether to revisit its timeframe for replacing its current handset- and network-based location accuracy standards with a single standard in light of technological developments.”

The Commission is encouraging industry, the public safety community, and other stakeholders to work collaboratively to develop alternate proposals for the FCC’s consideration. Additional information about the FCC is at www.fcc.gov.

Water contamination in West Virginia raises concerns

The contamination of the drinking water of some 300,000 residents of West Virginia this past January has highlighted the fact that there isn’t always enough information available on chemicals to assess the risks involved to the public and ways to mitigate the hazards when such an emergency arises.

According to a report in Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), the chemical that leaked into the Charleston, WV, water supply was crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM), which is used to process coal. When state officials accessed the chemical’s material safety data sheet, it contained little information on its toxicity. Lawmakers and the public were left with unanswered questions relative to its effects and those of the other chemicals that are blended with MCHM.

The chemicals entered the water supply when a tank that stored crude MCHM leaked into the Elk River. Freedom Industries, owner of the tank located about 1.5 miles upstream from the intake pipe of Charleston’s water supply system, determined that about 10,000 gallons of material had escaped from the storage tank.

“The experience reminds you just how little data there are about so many of the chemicals that we use,” says Mark Darcy, a manufacturing process chemist at a local chemical plant and a West Virginia resident. According to the report, Darcy found out about the water ban on his way home from work. The complete C&EN report is at http://bit.ly/1fnvSbM.

Grants for community wildfire safety projects

National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) national campaigns designed to help communities to encourage residents to protect their homes and properties against wildfires have been bolstered with funding from State Farm®. The grant will make it possible for the NFPA Wildland Fire Operations Division to present local organizations with monetary awards to implement wildfire risk-reduction projects.

The campaigns include The Firewise Challenge, created in 2013, which encourages neighborhood participation in the national Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program. State Farm grant funds will be awarded to communities in 10 states that have the greatest participation to implement safety projects. A grand prize of $5,000 will be awarded to five communities in Arkansas, Washington, Pennsylvania, California, and New Jersey for mitigation activities, including chipping of brush, removing vegetative material, and similar activities. A runner-up prize of $900 will be awarded to five additional communities in Virginia, Colorado, Oregon, Tennessee, and Maine to use for safety gear, tools, or mitigation projects.

The second campaign is the first nationwide Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, scheduled for May 3, 2014. On this day, the emphasis will be on people of all ages participating in wildfire preparedness activities that will help protect their communities from wildfires.

A portion of the State Farm grant funding will be awarded to 20 neighborhood wildfire safety projects being implemented during the May 3 event. Information on how to apply for an award can be found at www.wildfireprepday.org.

Additional information about the Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program Challenge and National Wildfire Preparedness Day is at www.nfpa.org/wildfire.

Tularemia potential major bioterror threat?

Officials are said to fear the use of four major infectious agents as weapons by bioterrorists, according to THE WEEK Magazine. They are smallpox, anthrax, the plague, and tularemia. Tularemia, a serious disease, can be spread to humans by the bites of ticks and flies or by contact with the bodies of deceased infected rabbits. Humans may also become infected by eating rabbit that is undercooked. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are studying tularemia and strategies for fighting a possible outbreak. Without treatment, it can kill. For additional information, go to http://bit.ly/1f524ug.

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