NTSB report cites Conrail in New Jersey derailment

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) staff is finalizing its formal report on the November 30, 2012, Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) derailment in Paulsboro, New Jersey, resulting in the release of vinyl chloride.

In its preliminary report, the NTSB noted that the cause of the seven-car derailment was the train crew’s sending a radio signal command to begin crossing over the bridge while the signal was red and, hence, before the bridge was ready for train movement. The train crew reportedly had made “multiple attempts” to remotely execute a radio signal command to align and lock the bridge, but the signal did not turn green. In accordance with Conrail’s operating rules and procedures, a “qualified employee,” a conductor, was sent to ascertain that the bridge’s running rails were aligned and locked to the fixed track at both ends of the bridge. The conductor erroneously concluded that the bridge was properly locked and advised that the train proceed.

As the train traveled over the bridge, the sixth through the 12th cars derailed. According to the NTSB, “Physical evidence indicated that the swing span locking mechanism was not engaged at the east end of the bridge. The bridge was structurally sound and did not collapse. Four of the derailed tank cars came to rest partially in Mantua Creek.” Three of them contained vinyl chloride; one contained ethanol. One tank car was breached and released about 20,000 gallons of vinyl chloride. Area residents (28) were treated for possible vinyl chloride exposure; the train crew and many emergency responders also were exposed to the chemical.

The NTSB cited Conrail for “relying on a training and qualification program that did not prepare the train crew to examine the bridge lock system.” It also identified as a contributing factor to the accident “the lack of a comprehensive safety management program that would have identified and mitigated the risks associated with the continued operation of the bridge despite multiple bridge malfunctions of increasing frequency.”

Furthermore, the NTSB reported that the consequences of the accident were more severe because “the incident commander failed to implement established hazardous materials response protocols for worker protection and community exposure to the vinyl chloride release.” This may have in part been the result of a lack of information. In the “Conclusions” section of the preliminary report, the NTSB notes the following: “During the early hours following the accident, Consolidated Rail Corporation personnel did not immediately provide critical hazardous materials information to emergency responders that could have assisted in executing a safer response to this accident.”

Also with regard to the hazardous materials response, the NTSB cited the following: “Personnel exposure to vinyl chloride would have been minimized had the incident commander followed guidance contained in the Emergency Response Guide, accepted the advice from hazardous materials emergency responders, and conducted the emergency operation in accordance with Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standards under Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.120.”

The report noted other safety issues and offered recommendations, including two that it had issued previously. Among them are the following:

  • “To the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Volunteer Fire Council, respectively: Notify your membership about the circumstances of this accident, and develop a plan to incorporate into ongoing training curricula lessons learned concerning the need to promptly use adequate data collection and analysis tools and to develop and implement community protective measures for mitigating the threats of hazardous materials releases.”
  • “To the New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management: Ensure communities base their emergency operations plan content on hazard analysis and risk assessments that adequately provide for response to hazardous materials threats facing communities, including railroad transportation.”
    -Develop emergency operations planning recertification and approval procedures with adequate accountability, quality control measures, and audit methods to ensure that communities maintain accurate, appropriate, and current plans.
  • “To the New Jersey Bureau of Fire Department Services: Update the firefighter training curricula relating to hazardous materials operations to incorporate lessons learned from this National Transportation Safety Board accident investigation concerning the emergency response to the Conrail Freight Train Derailment with Vinyl Chloride Release in Paulsboro, New Jersey, on November 30, 2012.”

The safety recommendations the NTSB previously issued that are reiterated in the report are as follows:

The Federal Railroad Administration should do the following:

1. Require that safety management systems and the associated key principles (including top-down ownership and policies, analysis of operational incidents and accidents, and continuous evaluation and improvement programs) be incorporated into the railroad’s risk reduction programs required by Public Law 110-432, Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, enacted October 16, 2008.

2. The railroads work with emergency responders to develop regulations requiring that railroads immediately provide to emergency responders accurate, real-time information about the identity and location of all hazardous materials on a train.

3. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration works with the railroads to develop regulations requiring that railroads immediately provide to emergency responders accurate, real-time information about the identity and location of all hazardous materials on a train.

Additional information is at http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/2014/07/ntsb-nj-derailment.html and http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2014/paulsboro_nj/abstract.html.

Line-of-Duty Deaths

May 6. Chief Robert “Bud” Glenn Webster Sr., 64, Glencoe (KY) Fire-Rescue Department: traumatic brain injury suffered in a motor vehicle accident in 2006.
July 9. Firefighter Daniel Groover, 46, Houston (TX) Fire Department: collapsed while operating on the second floor interior of a burning residential structure. Local and state authorities are investigating the circumstances of the fire and Groover’s death.
July 9. Firefighter Richard L. Marchman, 67, Indian Peaks Fire Protection District, Ward, CO: apparent heart attack.
July 21. Chief Billy Glen Norris Sr., 62, Lecompte (LA) Volunteer Fire Department: heart attack.
July 29. Firefighter Matthew David Goodnature, 21, Fremont-Winema National Forest, Lakeview, OR: injuries sustained in a fall at the Launch fire in Oregon.
August 5. Assistant Chief Jamie Middlebrook, 40, New Carlisle (IN) Fire Department: injuries sustained when a ceiling collapsed on him in a commercial fire.
August 6. Firefighter Jonathan French, 25, Glendale (KY) Fire Department: injuries sustained when hit by a truck while responding to a vehicle fire on a highway.Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database

Winners named in 2014 gear giveaway

Globe, DuPont Protection Technologies, and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) are partnering in the 2014 Globe Gear Giveaway Program for the third year to provide new, state-of-the-art turnout gear to volunteer fire departments in need. Thirteen departments will each be awarded four sets of gear.

The first three recipients are the Highlands (NJ) Fire Department, the Nicasio (CA) Volunteer Fire Department, and the Osler Fire Department (Saskatchewan, Canada).

According to NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg, more than 500 departments applied for the gear. To be eligible, the departments must be all or mostly volunteer, serve a population of 25,000 or less, be legally organized in the United States or Canada, demonstrate a need for the gear, and be a member of the NVFC. To help departments meet this last requirement, Globe sponsored NVFC department memberships for the first 200 nonmembers to apply.

Additional awards will be made monthly throughout 2014.

NAFTD releases Rules of Engagement for safe training

The North American Fire Training Directors (NAFTD), in partnership with the International Association of Fire Chiefs Safety, Health and Survival Section, has released the “Rules of Engagement for Safe Fire Service Training,” developed through a consensus of training directors and safety officers across the United States and Canada.

“Line-of-duty deaths during training are preventable and unacceptable,” said NAFTD President Allen Rice. “We need to take concrete measures to eliminate the loss of firefighters during training events.”

The new Rules address subjects such as developing a training plan, following recognized standards, having qualified instructional staff, taking all possible safety precautions, and ensuring that participants are medically cleared before engaging in strenuous training. The Rules were first introduced during the 2014 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week in June. A poster of the Rules is available at www.naftd.org/Documents/Rules%20You%20Can%20Live%20By.pdf.

Standard for exterior vents in wildfire-prone areas approved

ASTM E2886/E2886M, Test Method for Evaluating the Ability of Exterior Vents to Resist the Entry of Embers and Direct Flame Impingement, provides performance criteria for attic vents to be used for new construction in wildfire-prone areas. The California Building Code, Chapter 7A, states that attic vents used in such construction should resist the intrusion of embers and flames since the spread of embers through these vents is a major cause of the igniting of houses and other buildings during wildfires, according to the ASTM.

“Embers from wildfires, not the flames from the main body of the wildfire, are the main threat that homes must resist,” says ASTM member Stephen Quarles, senior scientist, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. “ASTM E2886 will help users discriminate between the ember and flame resistance performance of vents.”

USFA and NVFC study volunteers’ health and safety

A United States Fire Administration (USFA)-National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) study will cover occupational health and safety challenges encountered by members of the volunteer fire service. The objectives are the ultimate development of initiatives, programs, and strategies that will decrease on-duty injuries and fatalities among volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service responders and volunteer wildland firefighters. There are 783,300 volunteer firefighters in the United States, representing 69 percent of the nation’s fire service.

Improving safety in crude oil transportation

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released in July its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) aimed at improving the safety of transporting by rail large quantities of flammable materials, particularly crude oil and ethanol.

The NPRM proposes enhanced tank car standards, a classification and testing program for mined gases and liquids, and new operational requirements for high-hazard flammable trains (HHFT) that include braking controls and speed restrictions.

The ANPRM seeks further information on expanding comprehensive oil spill response planning requirements for shipments of flammable materials. At press time, the NPRM and ANPRM were available for review for 60 days. The NPRM is based on an ANPRM published by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) last September and represents feedback from more than 152,000 commenters.

Among the contents of the PHMSA ANPRM are the following:

  • A “high-hazard flammable train” (HHFT) will be defined as a train carrying 20 or more tank carloads of flammable liquids (including crude oil and ethanol).
  • Mined gases and liquids must be better classified and characterized, and providers must certify that sampling and testing programs are in place, documented, and made available to DOT personnel on request.

CDC lab director resigns

Michael Farrell, director of the Bioterrorism Rapid Response and Advanced Technology (BRRAT) Laboratory, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), resigned in July following the unintentional exposure of at least 80 workers to potentially viable anthrax at the CDC’s campus in Atlanta, Georgia.

The CDC issued its Report on the Potential Exposure to Anthrax on July 11. It had issued a moratorium on transferring inside or outside the agency infectious agents, active or inactivated specimens from BSL-3 or BSL-4 facilities. The ban ultimately was lifted after a review by an advisory committee.

The report follows an internal review the CDC director had ordered and concluded the following: “Scientists’ failure to follow an approved, written study plan that met all laboratory safety requirements led to dozens of employees being potentially exposed.” It noted also “a lack of standard operating procedures to document when biological agents are properly inactivated in laboratories as well as a lack of adequate laboratory oversight of scientists performing work in these labs.”

The CDC has initiated steps to prevent such lapses in the future, including implementing various policies and procedures for establishing and enforcing laboratory safety and overall accountability. The entire report is at http://www.cdc.gov/aboutpdf/labsafety/Final-Anthrax-Report.pdf.

NFPA updates smoke alarm installation guide

The National Fire Protection Association has released a new edition of Planning & Implementing a Successful Smoke Alarm Installation Program. It describes how to create a smoke alarm installation program in your community, including tips on selecting volunteers, soliciting donations, and publicizing your program. Download the guide at http://bit.ly/1ntlrOS.

Autism and first responders video

Responding to a scene that includes an individual with autism creates special challenges for first responders. The Willow Grove Volunteer Fire Company, Upper Moreland Police Department, and Horsham Fire Company in Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, have created a new training video to educate departments and help them be better prepared to respond in these situations. The video is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnva3jeek30, the Institute’s YouTube site.

Resource page for those who served at Ground Zero

Gary Suson, founder of the Ground Zero Museum Workshop, has created a new guide for sick and disabled 9/11 workers. Suson spent 19 hours a day for seven months at Ground Zero as the official photographer for the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) fire union.

The publication was inspired by his recent discovery of 11 tumors throughout his body. Suson had five tumors removed during the past eight weeks.

The New York Post reported in July that 2,500 Ground Zero recovery workers have come down with cancer and tumors.

Suson created a page on his museum Web site to assist sick and disabled 9/11 workers. “Having lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, and multiple-chemical sensitivity for 13 years as a result of working seven months at Ground Zero, I want other 9/11 workers to have a good source page for answers to their symptoms,” Suson explains. Where to find chemical-free bedding, doctors who can help 9/11-related illness, and vitamins that help with compromised immune systems are among the types of information that can be found on his Web page.

Suson is the founder of the nonprofit Ground Zero Museum Workshop in New York City’s Meatpacking District. His museum has raised tens of thousands of dollars for sick and disabled 9/11 recovery workers as well as for the FDNY Foundation for the Children of Fallen Firefighters.

The full story is at www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08/prweb12059706.htm.

Formal interpretation issued for NFPA 1851

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) issued in August a formal interpretation for NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, 2014 edition.

In response to a query from a member of the technical committee for this standard, the following interpretation was issued on August 5, 2014, to become effective August 25, 2014: “It is the intent of the committee that materials and components used in the repair of protective clothing for structural firefighting be new and unused.”


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