Obama orders review of plant safety procedures

President Obama, on August 1, issued Executive Order 13650 mandating “additional measures by executive departments and agencies with regulatory authority to further improve chemical facility safety and security in coordination with owners and operators.”

This directive is the culmination of efforts to determine the causes of the explosions at the West (TX) Fertilizer Company on April 17, 2013, and the Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, Louisiana, on June 13, 2013.

On June 27, 2013, Rafael Moure-Eraso, Ph.D., chairperson of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and made numerous observations and recommendations relative to preventing disasters involving chemical explosions such as those that occurred at the West Fertilizer Company and the Williams Olefins plant.

The complete story and an oversight of Presidential Directive 13650 is at http://bit.ly/14HALrS.

NFPA releases Firefighter Fatality report

Sixty-four firefighters died in the line of duty in 2012, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Firefighter Fatality Report. Thirty of these fatalities were volunteer firefighters, 23 were career firefighters, four were military members, three were federal contractors, two were federal land management agency employees, and two were prison inmates.

The greatest number of deaths (21) occurred on the fireground.

The year 2012 represented the lowest number of sudden cardiac deaths, deaths at structure fires, and volunteer firefighter deaths, according to the NFPA.

Deaths in motor vehicle crashes were 10 or fewer for the fourth consecutive year, and on-duty cardiac-related deaths decreased for the fifth consecutive year.

It was the fourth consecutive year that overall fatalities were fewer than 100, bringing the annual average during the past 10 years to 88 on-duty deaths.

More information is at www.nfpa.org.

Line-of-Duty Deaths

April 20. Firefighter Mark Anthony Shepard Sr., 49, Rosehill Volunteer Fire Department, Tomball, TX: felt ill on April 17; hospitalized for tests; cardiac arrest.
April 25. Firefighter/Training Officer George R. Davidson III, 58, Youngsville (NY) Fire Department: heart attack.
July 5. Engineer/Paramedic Christopher Douglas, 41, CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, Perris, CA: hit by a vehicle; accident under investigation.
July 6. Chief Mickey Yates, 47, Greenfield Volunteer Fire Department, Hickory, MS: accident in his privately owned vehicle while responding.
July 8. Heavy Equipment Operator Dennis Long, Idaho Department of Lands-Maggie Creek Forest Protective District, Kamiah, ID: became ill while operating a dozer and putting in a fire line during suppression operations on the Pardee fire.
July 8. Firefighter John Austin, 37, Quincy (MA) Fire Department: became unresponsive from a cause unknown.
July 9. Assistant Chief Rodney Hardee, 66, Loris (SC) Volunteer Fire Department: cardiovascular accident.
July 20. Lieutenant Matthew Blankenship, 38, Marshfield (MO) Fire Protection District: injuries sustained in a basement fire on July 13.
July22. Firefighter Bruce Sensenig, 20, Quentin (PA) Volunteer Fire Department: accident in personal vehicle while driving to the fire station for a call.
July 22. Firefighter David Brier, 50, Middleborough (MA) Fire Department: heart attack.
August 1. Firefighter John Hammack, 58, U.S. Forest Service-Deschutes National Forest Bend, OR: hit by a tree while clearing away hazardous trees in a wildfire.
August 6. Firefighter Jesse Trader, 19, Southwest Oregon District-Oregon Department of Forestry, Central Point, OR: while he was returning from the evening shift, the water tender (tanker) he was driving hit an embankment and rolled over on Bear Camp Road near Soldier Camp.
August 10. Firefighter Kevin Hall, 59, BLM-Vale (OR) District: found unresponsive while supporting a bulldozer crew as it worked to repair an existing fire line on the Grassy Mountain fire.
Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database

Scholarships presented to 82 survivors of fallen firefighters

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and its partners awarded $246,468 in scholarships to 78 children, two stepchildren, and two spouses of fallen firefighters for the 2013-2014 academic year as part of the Sarbanes Scholarship Program.

The Motorola Foundation awarded $213,468 to the 82 recipients. In addition, ICMA-RC awarded $15,000 to 13 individuals, Global Health & Safety awarded four $2,000 scholarships, and National Association of State Fire Marshal’s awarded 10 $1,000 scholarships.

The Sarbanes Scholarship Program is named in honor of U.S. Senator Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland, who was a strong supporter of education and America’s fire service family. He authored the legislation that created the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in 1992.

More information is at http://www.firehero.org/.

NIST study: “Crew size influences extinguishment time”

Crew size is the most significant influence when fighting fires in high-rises, according to a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Adding two crew members to a three- or four-member crew speeds up the time it takes to extinguish a fire in a high-rise.” These study results were presented at the 2013 Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on April 10.

NIST and 13 Washington, D.C., fire departments participated in the research project, whose objective was to determine ways to improve firefighting in high-rises. Based on this finding and others like it, the National Fire Protection Association plans to revise its standards for fighting high-rise fires.

For more on the study, visit www.nist.gov.

Homeowners must purchase improved smoke alarms

Effective July 1, 2013, Maryland homeowners will be required to replace their home battery-operated smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old with units powered by a 10-year built-in battery.

An increase in residential fire fatalities in the state last year prompted the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, other fire officials, and Kidde Fire Safety to launch a public service campaign that urged families to purchase the built-in-battery smoke alarms, which are recommended by the National Fire Protection Association and the National Association of State Fire Marshals. Homeowners must also install a smoke alarm on each floor and in each sleeping area.

Thirty-nine Maryland residents died in home fires as of July 2013; more than a third of these homes did not have working smoke alarms.

FEMA’s 2013 NPR reveals successes and challenges

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Preparedness Report showed that the nation continued to progress in the areas of planning, operational coordination, intelligence and information sharing, and operational communications and that it improved in cyber security, recovery-focused core capabilities, and integration of individuals with disabilities. The United States also enhanced the physical and cyber resilience of infrastructure systems and in developing public-private partnerships across mission areas.

On the other hand, the report cited “challenges” in addressing long-term resourcing and support for public-private partnerships; the ability to expedite resources, develop innovative solutions to meet survivor needs, and work with nongovernmental partners during disasters the scope of Hurricane Sandy; and the federal government’s ability to distribute resources in response to disasters. The full report is at www.fema.gov/national-preparedness-report.

NIOSH releases Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has released the following Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation reports:

UL establishes Firefighter Safety Research Institute

UL has established the Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI). Its team of experts collaborates with fire departments and agencies around the country and all over the world to conduct and disseminate research and training programs that focus on the changing dynamics of residential, commercial, and industrial fires and the impact they have on fire service tactics and strategies. Additional information is at http://ulfirefightersafety.com.

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