Whenever Hazardous Materials Leak, These Tools Help to Patch and Plug

Whenever Hazardous Materials Leak, These Tools Help to Patch and Plug


Because hazardous materials normally become a problem only when released from some type of container, the ability to patch or plug accidental leaks in a wide variety of containers has assumed greater importance to fire departments in this country.

A number of fire service hazardous materials emergency response teams have assembled necessary equipment and materials that allow them to control leaks in literally hundreds of different types of containers. Although critical support equipment—particularly vehicles, communications equipment detection and monitoring devices and personal protective gear—is often complex and costly, much of the materials and equipment actually used for patching and plugging is quite ordinary, and readily available to any department.

Nearly every team contacted owns or has access to chlorine emergency kits manufactured to specifications of the Chlorine Institute (342 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017. Phone (212) 682-4324) and produced by and available from Indian Springs Manufacturing Co. (P.O. Box 112, Baldwinsville, N.Y. 13027. Phone (315) 635-6101). Separate kits are available for chlorine cylinders (Kit A), chlorine ton containers (Kit B), and chlorine tank cars and tank trucks (Kit C). The kits operate on the principle of capping leaking valves or fusible plugs and, in the case of cylinders and ton containers, of sealing off a leak in the container wall itself.

A number of response teams arrange to borrow chlorine emergency kits from organizations in their local area as needed, or arrange custody on a permanent-loan basis. The St. Johns County, Fla., hazardous materials team, for example, obtained A and B chlorine kits for their emergency vehicle from the local water department.

Locating assistance

By obtaining Publication 35, “Location of Chlorine Emergency Kits,” (60 pages, $5.00) from the Chlorine Institute, response organizations can learn the location, by type (A, B or C), of chlorine emergency kits in all states. This is the easiest way to determine which industrial organizations, government agencies, and business, trade or technical associations in a particular area have kits available.

If you purchase or gain access to a chlorine emergency kit, you can obtain from the institute a training package for that type of kit. The package is composed of slides, a cassette recording synchronized with the slides, plus a complete script keyed to the slides. Each $100 kit (specify A, B or C) has from 59 to 72 slides.

Finally, the institute can supply instructional booklets for each type of chlorine emergency kit for $6 each.

Finding information fast

No hazardous materials response team should be without a portable library of manuals, guidebooks, schematics and other reference materials that allow personnel to identify chemicals, potential reactions, and proper control and containment methods. Although specific reference materials vary by individual team and the geographical area of the country in which they operate, a list of those documents most often carried is provided.

It may be helpful to review the actual tools, equipment and materials carried by selected fire service hazardous materials response teams around the country.

Hazardous incident team one (HIT ONE) of the Hillsborough County, Fla., Fire Department in Tampa uses a crew-cab truck with a modular, box-type enclosed body with exterior compartments. The unit is equipped with two complete and independent radio systems with eight-channel operation. They provide dual communication capabilities as well as a reliable back-up system. The team carries four, portable radios with primary operating frequencies plus a private fireground frequency for on-scene communications among team members and with the command post. In addition, two of five special acid suits are capable of two-way communication with the command post using the special frequency.

Emergency kit for handling leaking chlorine cylinders. Other specialized kits are designed for tank Cars, trucks and ton containers

—Photo courtesy of the Chlorine Institute.

Personnel protection

For protective equipment HIT ONE carries complete Nomex fire fighting clothing (including hoods) for all members, five self-contained acid/vapor suits, five aluminized proximity suits, five SCBA with composite cylinders, chemical splash aprons and goggles, shock helmets with ear protectors and assorted gloves for special substances.

Instruments carried on the HIT ONE apparatus include a leak detector, two explosimeters, a hydrocarbon detector, a leak tracer, one aniometer (wind speed and direction), a continuity meter, two radiation detectors, two radiological monitors and an aerial radiological monitor.

Other equipment and materials kept available are axes, pike poles, first-aid equipment, a complete set of nonsparking brass hand tools ranging from a small hammer to a large scoop shovel, and the three types of chlorine kits. The team also carries chain of assorted sizes and lengths, a 5-ton hydraulic winch, three 20-ton hydraulic jacks, large steel tongs, assorted black carbon steel patches, and assorted wooden and rubber plugs. For size-up, HIT ONE uses two sets of 10X50 binoculars plus a 50X spotting scope equipped with a truck-roof-mount tripod. Additional materials are 1000 feet of barricade tape, six 50-pound containers of lime, 50 pounds of dry sealant, a heavy-duty wheel puller and three 40-foot nylon straps of 2000-pound capacity with lock connectors. As supplements to a 13-volume reference library, the team carries various street, sewer and utility maps and assorted topographical or terrain maps.

On-board computer

The team also carries a light plant and AC generator, an inflatable air bag system for patching and lifting, large-diameter air lines for diking and spill containment and an on-board computer for accessing chemical data.

The hazardous materials response team (H.M.R.T.) of the Houston, Texas, Fire Department began service in 1979 with 18 fire fighters on three shifts. H.M.R.T. rolls as a two-piece, combination hazardous materials/rescue company with four or five men in a rescue vehicle and one man in a vehicle designated as HM-1. During 1980 H.M.R.T. averaged 14 hazardous materials responses a month in addition to rescue and fire suppression duties.

Houston’s HM-1 vehicle is a step-van similar to those used by bread companies to make deliveries to supermarkets. For personal protection the team carries pressure-demand SCBA, acid suits, proximity suits, safety harnesses, chemical gloves, rain suits, goggles and ear protectors.

Selected Haz-Mat Reference Materials

ACFX Rail Car Service Bulletins

Shippers Car Line Division ACF Industries, Inc. 620 N. 2nd St. St. Charles, Mo. 63301

Chemical Hazards Response Information System (CHRIS)

(U.S. Coast Guard Manuals) Four separate manuals:

CG446-1: A Condensed Guide to Chemical Hazards

CG446-2: Hazardous Chemicals Data

CG446-3: Hazardous Assessment Handbook

CG446-4: Response Methods Handbook

Superintendent of Documents Government Printing Office Washington, D.C. 20402

Chemistry of Hazardous Materials, Eugene Meyer

Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 07632

Condensed Chemical Dictionary Reinhold Publishing New York, N.Y. 10602

Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials, I. Sax

Reinhold Publishing New York, N.Y. 10602

Effects of Exposure to Gases & First Aid Medical Treatment

Matheson Company Lyndhurst, N.J. 07071

Emergency Action Guide for Selected Hazardous Materials

U.S. Department of Transportation Research & Special Programs Materials Transportation Bureau Washington, D.C. 20590

Emergency Handling of Hazardous Materials In Surface Transport

Bureau of Explosives Association of American Railroads 1920 L St., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036

Emergency Response Guide

(55 guides provide fire, explosion and health hazards of the more than 1700 haz-mat items regulated by DOT, and state response methods.)

response methods.) U.S. Department of Transportation Materials Transportation Bureau Washington, D.C. 20590

Explosive and Toxic Hazardous Materials/Flammable Hazardous Materials

Glencoe Press 8701 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, Calif. 90211

Fire Protection Guide on Hazardous Materials

National Fire Protection Association Batterymarch Park Quincy, Mass. 02269

Fruehauf Tank Vehicle and Commodity Bulletins

Fruehauf Corp. Omaha, Neb. 68101

Hazardous Materials, Schieler and Pauze

Delmar Publishers Albany, N.Y. 12205

How to Dispose of Toxic Substances and Industrial Wastes, P. W. Powers Noyes Data Corp. Park Ridge, N.J. 07656

Industrial Gases Data Book

Airco Welding Products Clermont Terrace Union, N.J. 07803

Linde Specialty Gases

Linde Div., Union Carbide 270 Park Ave. New York, N.Y. 10017

National Fire Codes

(Approximately 245 separate, detailed national standards of from 50 to 150 pages. Example: NFPA No. 49 Is Hazardous Chemical Data.)

National Fire Protection Association Batterymarch Park Quincy, Mass. 02269

Radiation Control for Fire and Other Emergencies, A. A. Kell

National Fire Protection Association Batterymarch Park Quincy, Mass. 02269

Radiological Emergency Procedures for the Nonspecialist

U.S. Atomic Energy Commission U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, D.C. 20402

Railroad Tank Car Manual GATX

120 S. Riverside Plaza Chicago, III. 60606

Threshold Limit Value

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists P.O. Box 1937 Cincinnati, Ohio 45201

Transportation Emergency Guides

(Popularly known as MCA CHEMCARDS)

(Separate guides for each of 87 chemicals. Developed for tank truck drivers to give essential information in case of accident involving these chemicals.)

Chemical Manufacturers Association 1825 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20009

Sleeves, dowels, bungs, plugs and tape carried by the HIT ONE Team for controlling leaks in containers.

Photos courtesy HIT ONE

Detection and monitoring equipment carried by HIT ONE. Safety and tactics depend on knowing the nature of the hazard of a hazardous materials emergency.

HM-1 carries explosimeters, a pH meter, a CO meter, a pyrometer, and radiation monitoring kits. For general tools and materials, HM-1 is stocked with a portable eye wash, a drum truck (hand truck), wrenches and other small tools, a vise and pipe cutter, jacks and chains, brace and bits, entrenching tools, chain hoists, chlorine kits and plastic bags.


For patching and plugging materials, the Houston team stocks lead wool, Tbolt patches, toggle bolts, sheet metal screws, pressure-sensitive tape, various sizes of wooden plugs, rubber stoppers, stainless-steel pipe clamps, and duct tape. Also carried on the Houston unit are quick-setting spray adhesive, foaming patch kits, red rubber gasket material, neoprene gasket material, sheet lead, epoxy kits and fiberglass cloth. In addition, the team carries an assortment of bungs and plugs, epoxy putty, duct-sealing compound, pipe plugs from 4-inch to 10-inch size, Cclamps from 2-inch to 8-inch, silicone seal, PB-35 sealant, stainless hose clamps and gasline clamps.

For specialty equipment, Houston H.M.R.T. personnel have “Dike-Pak” kits, railroad tank car sump covers, a rail tank car “wild car” plug (for use when product is pouring from a tank car after the belly cap has been removed with the bottom outlet valve open), grounding and bonding rods and cables, 600 pounds of sand and 300 pounds of soda ash.

The Memphis, Tenn., Division of Fire Services formed two five-man hazardous materials REACT teams that are staffed round-the-clock by a total of 55 men on all shifts (see Fire Engineering, July 1981). The primary purpose of these teams is to handle normal fire suppression calls, but either team can be reassigned on a moment’s notice to respond to a chemical emergency.

Each REACT squad is equipped with an elevating platform, while two hazardous materials specialists have fourwheel-drive Suburbans. Each of these four vehicles carries similar equipment including a portable radio with recharger and detachable speaker mike, plus civil defense as well as fire department vehicle radios. For protective clothing there are two chemical suits, a Nomex jumpsuit, rubber gloves, and six disposable rainsuits with boots.


For detection and monitoring equipment, Memphis REACT squads carry a gas detector, one Draeger chemical detector with tubes, a pack of pH papers and a radiological monitoring device consisting of a dosimeter, Geiger counter and ion chamber.

With regard to general equipment and materials, REACT squads carry field glasses, sparkproof tools, maps of hydrants and water mains accessible from the Interstate highway system, a hand-held spotlight, spades and shovels, a 35mm camera, wooden plugs tapered from 1 inch to 6 inches, a roll of Parafilm, hose clamps, a plumber’s inflatable pipe plug, two rolls of duct tape, a resuscitator and grounding cables.

In addition, the two REACT elevating platforms carry two flexible hatch funnels, four dome cover clamps, chlorine kits, an air chisel, two lifelines and four air bags.

The Denver, Col., Fire Department hazardous materials emergency response team, composed of five men, uses a ¾-ton van customized by fire department repair and carpentry shop workers with shelving, insulation and other adjustments.

Access to any telephone

Denver’s team walkie-talkie radios have a patching capability that allows members to punch a code number to obtain access to any telephone number. Also, acid and gas entry suits are equipped with bone-conducting microphones so wearers need only drop an arm to activate a pressure switch and be in contact with each other or the incident commander. A team member can actually be be standing in a shower of hazardous commodity from a ruptured tank car and be talking with the CHEMTREC communicator in Washington, D.C., or with the tank car designer in another part of the country. The team uses a tape recorder when receiving information from CHEMTREC or other sources so that information obtained will not be garbled or misunderstood.

Rooftop scope on this HIT ONE response unit allows size-up of a hazardous materials incident from a Safer distance

—Photo Courtesy HIT ONE.

Emergency response team from Jacksonville, Fla., demonstrates use of hose and air bottles to make an instant boom to control substances spreading on the water.

The van is equipped with a 110-volt/ 550-watt inverter to permit operation of a weather information unit. Sitting atop a 24-foot mast that is mounted to a crossbeam as needed, this unit provides moment-to-moment readouts on a digital meter in the van for wind speed, wind direction, barometric pressure and temperature.

For personal protection, Denver team members carry pressure-demand SCBA, complete-enclosure chemical suits, two-piece chemical suits, neoprene gloves, rubber boots, helmets and bunker gear. They also stock a pressurized eye-wash unit and chemical splash goggles.

Denver detection and monitoring equipment includes a combustible gas indicator, a vapor sampling test kit, pH strips and radiation meters.

Other equipment and materials carried by the Denver team include A and B chlorine kits, nonsparking alloy tools, wooden plugs of various sizes and shapes, Parafilm wrap, plastic sheeting and absorbent materials. Along with a complete reference library, Denver personnel have available in their van field glasses, a 35mm camera, nonsparking lanterns and flashlights, lightweight chemical suits for resource personnel and disposable suits and gloves.

Most carry foam

Almost all teams carry foam. The Jacksonville two-truck unit, for example, keeps 300 gallons of various types of foam readily available. Four teams that make up the overall St. Johns County group each maintain 50 to 100 gallons of foam, while an additional 200 gallons is available at the office of the county fire coordinator. Houston’s apparatus foam supply includes 25 gallons of high expansion, 25 gallons of protein and 30 gallons of hydrocarbon emulsifier. All teams carry foam eductors, although some rely on units for water and hoses.

Also, all teams tend to carry Purple-K, AFFF, Met-L-X, and carbon dioxide extinguishers.

Response personnel repeatedly stress how often they use common, ordinary tools and materials in controlling leaks of hazardous commodities. They point out that they do not try for “the ultimate patch,” but rather work to temporarily stop the flow—or at least reduce the flow. Team members often work under frightening conditions, but their basic usefulness is their ability to temporarily patch a leak in any vessel, tank, cylinder or drum. They are not often in a position to seek a permanent solution to a problem.

“We are a first-aid company for leaks involving hazardous materials, just as a rescue company is to victims,” notes one experienced responder. “Our primary objective is to control the situation.”

Relatively simple tools

Pop-rivet tools; tubeless tire plug patch kits; assorted rubber patches, cement and gasket material; assorted Orings, washers and nuts; various tapes (duct, Teflon, electrician’s, etc.); combinations of square, conical and wedgeshaped wooden plugs wrapped with felt or cloth; T-bolts; C-clamps; pipe plugs and caps and similar materials are used repeatedly.

It may require a $100,000 combination of vehicle, detection and monitoring equipment, communications gear and personal protection equipment to get a fire fighter into position, but to actually plug the leak causing all the trouble he may use a patch made of a T-bolt, gasket, thin metal sheeting, concentric washers and wingnut, or possibly even a toggle bolt, rubber ball, washer and wingnut. He may even place an innertube over a leaking storage drum and tighten the tube with a stick to form a fairly good seal. He may place a bicycle tube into a leaking pipe and then inflate it. For bigger pipes, if no plumber’s inflatable pipe plug is available, he may use the bladder from a boxing bag. So much of the work down in the mud requires improvisation and innovation.

A number of teams make their own tools or modify existing tools to suit their special needs. T-bars, tool extensions and “crow’s feet” (for applications such as turning valves in rail tank car domes from outside the dome) are common examples. Jacksonville team members have a variety of vise grips with a welded concave extension on each jaw for clamping off hose lines and other applications. Jacksonville personnel also make their own wind socks and erect them at any incident involving fire, vapor, toxic fumes or gases.

Wherever you find it

“The first thing a team has to do,” one fire officer noted recently, “is to beg, borrow, and … ahhh … not quite steal the necessary tools, equipment and training.”

All teams seem to rely heavily on local industry for both equipment and training. St. Johns County obtained two acid suits on permanent loan from industry. Houston obtains equipment and materials from various industrial organizations, and has had training and travel expenses of team members paid by industry. A local rubber dealer gives Jacksonville and St. Johns County team members free run of his scrap pile. Most teams gather the bulk of their frangible disks, fusible plugs, check valves, pipe caps, couplings and other equipment related to specific industries during planning and training visits to these industries.

Teams also look to other agencies for assistance with start-up efforts. Memphis received more than $20,000 in federal funds. The Denver team obtained its response vehicle because the Denver Office of Emergency Preparedness provided money from a contingency fund reserved for purchase of pressing emergency-need items. A number of teams have obtained radiological monitoring devices on permanent loan from other agencies, and most at one time or another have borrowed equipment from the military.

Regarding equipment and materials, personnel of a number of teams repeatedly offered the same advice: “If you don’t have it, know where you can get it.” All teams should maintain a listing or card file with the name, address, contact person and telephone number of organizations that can supply heavy equipment and all types of specialized hazardous materials response gear. In all cases, team personnel should attempt to obtain definite prior commitments from each potential provider.

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