Do You Have an Emergency Involving Chemicals? CHEMTREC Celebrates 30 Years of Service

CHEMTREC, the Chemical Transportation Emergency Center, began operations on Sept. 5, 1971. CHEMTREC is a 24-hour emergency center that was started as a service of the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA), now known as the American Chemistry Council...


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The ESS researched Internet websites to obtain the following information, which was sent on to the National Guard. During the 1930s, the Lake Erie Chemical Company, based in Cleveland, developed a system to discharge tear gas into bank lobbies during holdups. This was done in conjunction with a company called Diebold, which was run by Elliot Ness, of "The Untouchables" fame. Lake Erie Chemical also manufactured flare pistols. One of the items in the tube was described as having a percussion cap on its base. CHEMTREC advised the National Guard of the strong possibility that the item was a dispensing unit that may contain tear gas. The item was collected and secured for disposal by the local bomb squad.

Assistance For Responders

Shipping paper emergency contact information. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that a shipper of hazardous materials provide a 24-hour emergency contact number at the top of all shipping papers. If a company does not have the capability of providing this type of contact, CHEMTREC can contract with the company and provide the emergency contact service. Therefore, some shipping papers will have the CHEMTREC 24-hour emergency number at the top for emergency contact information. Others will have a number directly connected to the shipper or manufacturer. Response personnel should use the shipper or manufacturer number first, if provided, before contacting CHEMTREC.

CHEMNET. The chemical industry has established a mutual aid network, CHEMNET, to provide emergency and technical information to the scene of hazmat incidents involving their products. Mutual aid teams are made up of chemical industry teams and for-hire contractors. Companies, which have limited response resources, can participate in the CHEMNET program.

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Photo by Robert Burke
Today, 2.8 million Material Safety Data Sheets are stored in modern computer databases.

CHEMNET is available 24 hours a day and is activated through CHEMTREC. Activation occurs when the Emergency Call Center advises a subscriber company that one of its products has been involved in an accident. If response to the scene cannot be accomplished in a reasonable time, a CHEMNET response team closest to the scene can be activated. The CHEMNET program is only available to shippers and distributors registered with CHEMTREC, but may be implemented to assist emergency responders.

MSDS system. CHEMTREC has one of the largest databases of Material Safety Data Sheets in the world. Over 2.8 million documents are available and can be faxed to emergency response personnel on scene of a hazmat incident. The MSDS system at CHEMTREC was recently upgraded to allow for better management and quicker retrieval of documents during an emergency. Information can be faxed directly to the incident scene. Response personnel should identify the location of the nearest fax machine and provide the number to CHEMTREC in order to receive information.

Training programs. The American Chemistry Council and CHEMTREC provide training programs to assist emergency responders. One-week workshops provide hands-on training for mitigation of incidents involving tank trucks, rail cars and other containers. Subjects covered include tank car specialist, advanced tank car specialist, highway emergency response specialist, hazmat technician, advanced technician and hazmat incident commander. Workshops are conducted at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, CO, at a cost of $950 to emergency responders. Students are responsible for their own transportation and lodging arrangements. Further information can be obtained by calling 703-741-5131.

Participation in drills and exercises. Through prior arrangement, CHEMTREC will participate in local hazmat drills and exercises. Using the Emergency Call Center during a drill or exercise can help emergency responders to better understand the resources and services available during an actual emergency. Participation by product shippers or manufacturers may also be arranged for specific chemicals.

MSDS for materials involved in a drill or exercise can be obtained prior to the event by contacting CHEMTREC's non-emergency number. Request forms for CHEMTREC participation are available by calling 800-262-8200 or downloading from the website. The fax number is 703-741-6090 and the e-mail address is chemtrec@americanchemistry.com. Completed forms should be faxed or e-mailed at least 48 hours prior to the drill or 10 days prior for regular mail. Mail should be sent to CHEMTREC Emergency Call Center, 1300 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22209-2380. Call 703-741-5525 at least one day in advance of the drill to confirm that the registration was received.