|The recent explosion in the harbor city of Tianjin is a sobering reminder of the potential of mankind to create disasters; what we should do to prevent them; and the importance of proper equipment and training for those responding to these catastrophic incidents.|
At least 40 types of dangerous chemicals have been detected at the blast zone, including 800 tons of ammonium nitrate and 500 tons of potassium nitrate. Authorities are facing criticism over failing to uphold regulations required for storage of industrial chemicals.
In terms of lost and missing, reports say that a total of 114 people have been confirmed dead, 700 injured, and more than 70 are still missing. Of those confirmed dead at least 23 were contract firefighters responding to initial reports of a fire.
It Gets More Disturbing
When the contract firefighters arrived at the scene, they sprayed water at the flames not knowing that the collection of volatile chemicals would emit a combustible gas when wet. These contract firefighters, some as young as 17, had little, if any, training on how to deal with chemical fires. Officials at the scene ordered firefighters to halt rescue work and military personnel specialized in handling nuclear and biochemical materials were sent to the site.
This Tianjin explosion and its aftermath is a reminder to us all that disasters come in many forms: Not only earthquakes, hurricanes and typhoons, but also man-made and urban disasters as well.
We often hear the debate in developed countries about the “real” needs and requirements for fire and rescue organizations. Obviously, adequate training should be mandatory, but also we urge organizations to consider top-of-the-line USAR equipment as well. Just because a particular geography is not prone to earthquakes, hurricanes or typhoons, man-made and urban disasters can still occur with devastating results.
We place great trust our fire and rescue teams. Let's ensure that adequate training and equipment is provided for these brave men and women.
Take-Aways from Tianjin
- Regulatory oversight and compliance are in place for handling and storage of dangerous goods.
- Compulsory training for those involved in handling of dangerous goods.
- Adequate and ongoing training for those responding to chemical fires.
- Provisioning and training in state-of-the art USAR equipment.
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PS: The phrase “Lest We Forget” is taken from the poem “Recessional,” by Rudyard Kipling.