IAFC, U.S. Department of Transportation partner to create Hazardous Materials Fusion Center

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has signed a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA) to lead the development of a new data center that will collect and analyze hazardous-materials incident data in order to enhance first-responder tactics, operations, policy and training.

The Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Fusion Center (Haz-mat Fusion Center) will build a secure, Web-based network to facilitate information sharing for first responders training for and responding to hazardous materials incidents. This knowledge-base will help ensure that haz-mat incidents are handled safely and securely. It will be the first such haz-mat data center for the first-responder community, but both the effort to create it and the results it will produce will encompass a broader range of stakeholders. It will provide crucial knowledge for all decision makers on the transportation and delivery of hazardous materials.

“Our new partnership will help us do a better job accessing and sharing information to improve the safety of hazardous materials transportation,” said PHMSA Acting Administrator Krista Edwards. “It will prevent accidents and improve our capability to respond to those we cannot prevent.”

Under the agreement, IAFC will spearhead the project, providing program management, technical advisors and subject matter expertise, and will establish initial data-collection efforts. The cooperative agreement is for a one-year period, with options to renew for four additional one-year terms. Year One of the program will focus on establishing the data center’ technical and human elements from the ground-up.

“The IAFC is proud to be a part of this landmark project with the Department of Transportation,” said IAFC President Chief Steven P. Westermann, CFO. “The days of moving forward on program policy decisions and technical solutions without data are over. The fire and emergency service, government and industry will finally have the national-level information they need to create effective, data-driven practices for response and mitigation to hazardous materials incidents.”

The Haz-mat Fusion Center will serve three purposes.

1. Information collection, which will include:

  • Developing a central location for the collection of information on the nation’s haz-mat teams (location, capabilities, equipment, etc.)

  • Creating a repository for haz-mat incident reporting on a secure web portal and a toll-free phone number for incident reporting

  • Forming Regional Incident Survey Teams (RIST), which will be deployed to serious haz-mat incidents to collect information on first-responder activity

  • Developing a method for increased communication and trust-building among the nation’s first-responder haz-mat community

  • Incorporating information from various sources (utilizing the Enterprise Approach of the U.S. Department of Transportation), including federal agencies and the private sector

2. Analysis of information collected, which will include:

  • Developing effective practices, planning tools and resources for first responders

  • Creating after-action reports from RIST-investigated haz-mat incidents

  • Providing recommended requirements for equipment and training for haz-mat teams

  • Identifying trends and patterns for the prevention and mitigation of haz-mat incidents

  • Interpreting data to assist the development of high-tech haz-mat response equipment and training

  • Ensuring that multi-agency reporting is streamlined so a redundant reporting system is not created

3. Dissemination of information and analysis, which will include:

  • Recommendations for safely responding to haz-mat incidents

  • Training materials for first responders (such as quarterly curriculum materials, training drills, conferences, and e-mail blasts)

  • Identification of the most frequently shipped and most hazardous materials

  • Data-based recommendations to industry and transporters for improved safety of shipping containers and processes

  • Data for use inclusion in national-level decision-making processes

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