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Photo credit: Photo courtesy of CHEMTREC
Randy Speight is the managing director of CHEMTREC
Erika Palfrey is the senior director of technical resources and information management for CHEMTREC
From train derailments, overturned tanker trucks and spills of hazardous materials to chemical fires, accidental poison ingestion, the Pentagon and World Trade Center on 9/11 and military encounters in Iraq and Afghanistan, first responders must address and neutralize a wide range of incidents every day.
Fortunately, they don’t have to do it alone. CHEMTREC, the definitive information resource and solutions provider for hazardous materials and dangerous goods response, is just a telephone call away.
An around-the-clock service, CHEMTREC was established in 1971 as a public service of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and is available to provide global assistance to emergency responders, manufacturers and shippers for incident response and maintaining compliance with government regulations. On average, the center receives about 350 calls a day in reference to approximately 125 incidents – that’s 35,000-plus incidents per year.
Not if, but when
According to The Right-to-Know Network, a Center for Effective Government website, 28,591 incidents were reported in 2012, which means it’s not a matter of if a first responder will face an incident, but rather a matter of when he or she will. When this happens, first responders need quick access to a reliable resource that can provide critical and immediate information. A call to CHEMTREC’s emergency telephone number – (800) 424-9300 – is often the first call for help during hazardous materials incidents because CHEMTREC can act as the central point of contact for all parties involved – emergency responders, manufacturers, shippers, consignees, carriers and government agencies. CHEMTREC’s highly experienced team quickly and efficiently provides necessary information obtained through its cloud-based emergency response system.
Here’s how a typical call unfolds. Say a captain and hazmat advisor from a fire department calls CHEMTREC’s emergency call center and reports that a truck has overturned that had been carrying purified terephthalic acid – a colorless solid used primarily as a precursor to the polyester polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used to make clothing and plastic bottles. In this scenario, an undetermined amount of the product had been spilled onto the highway. After reviewing the shipping documents and labeling on the truck, the caller realizes the shipper was unknown and requests assistance by calling CHEMTREC to obtain product information that would assist in securing the scene and determining how to clean it up.
The incoming call is answered by a CHEMTREC emergency service specialist (ESS) who is ProBoard-certified National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 472 as a hazardous materials technician and generally possesses emergency response experience from the military, a bomb squad or as a former firefighter or paramedic. The specialist immediately opens a “case file” in CHEMTREC’s cloud-based emergency response system – a system that incorporates leading technologies to converge three vital elements:
• Information – Protech Cloud Business Solutions (PCBS) powered by Microsoft Dynamics CRM, a fully integrated financial, customer relationship and document and resource management system hosted through Cetrom Cloud Computing services
• Communications – Four layers of telephone systems as well as integrated email and fax capabilities
• Access from anywhere – “Go kits” with laptops, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) headsets and handheld mobile devices
Through this configuration, CHEMTREC boasts a reliable, secure, cost-effective technology solution with the highest level of data security, redundancy and business continuity; a 99.9% uptime guarantee; and 24-7-365 maintenance, monitoring and support.
The ESS first gathers information about the incident – the caller’s name, organization, callback number, fax number, location and nature of the incident, the type and amount of product(s) involved, shipper, consignee, carrier, type of container and other details – and enters it into the case file within Protech Cloud Business Solutions (PCBS). As the various fields are populated, the system quickly provides contact information for relevant chemical product specialists and hazmat experts from a database of more than 30,000 manufacturers, shippers, carriers, public organizations and private resources. Since every incident is different, CHEMTREC has built its database and network of resources to include information and contacts for nearly any event imaginable or yet-to-be imagined.
As the first point of contact for a wide range of emergency response groups, CHEMTREC has direct access to transportation network operations workstations, chemists, physicians, toxicologists, registered nurses and interpreters (more than 180 different languages served). CHEMTREC works closely with product-specific mutual assistance groups such as the Chlorine Institute’s CHLOREP and has mutual assistance and/or partnership agreements with federal agencies such as the U.S. Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command, the Department of Defense, the Department of Transportation (DOT)and more.
The system also incorporates information from the DOT’s Emergency Response Guidebook with generic product information based on the product name entered, and can include hazards associated with the product such as how to handle it, what its flashpoint and boiling point are and what safety and first-aid is appropriate. Plus, if the shipper or manufacturer in question is registered with CHEMTREC, the specialist can quickly access any information that the manufacturer has provided via SharePoint or the PCBS UX Online database. These materials may include Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), of which more than five million are on file, waste manifests or instructions for disposal, which are automatically linked to the case log for the incident.
Connecting the lines of communication
Once the hazardous material and its shipper or manufacturer have been identified, CHEMTREC’s ESS will locate and facilitate communications with the manufacturer’s emergency contacts through a sophisticated conference system. After the specialist relays the details of the incident to the shipper or manufacturer, CHEMTREC facilitates a conference call for the shipper with the first responder at the scene of the incident to provide further technical advice and assistance.
Once CHEMTREC’s role in the incident, typically the first minutes or hours, has been fulfilled, CHEMTREC’s team will compile a written report of the incident that can be sent via email and/or fax to the shipper/manufacturer. The list of recipients is added to the incident case log and the case is closed.
“In my 40 years as a responder and trainer, I have always found CHEMTREC to be able to support me in my moment of need. They have always been there to help the emergency response community and they ask nothing in return,” said Michael Callan, a retired captain with the Wallingford, CT, Fire Department and president of mikecallan.com, which provides training to first responders.
Fueled by leading technology
CHEMTREC’s innovative, cloud-based emergency response system enables first responders to more quickly connect to the resources they need in order to stabilize a situation and neutralize an incident, dramatically reducing the risk of injury or death. Redundancies and web-based features of both the data and telecommunications systems have been designed to ensure responders will get through to CHEMTREC at any time, even in the unlikely scenario that CHEMTREC’s operations center needs to be evacuated.
Furthermore, these technology enhancements have helped the organization expand global service offerings, increase accuracy in incident reports and improve productivity among staff.