Jan 1, 2006 12:00 PM
AFTER a devastating fire at his firm's chemical facility near Houston, Texas, in 2002, Jim Clawson of Third Coast Terminals has some advice to offer about ways mangers should develop a response plan for a serious incident.
He made the comments at the National Association of Chemical Distributors annual Operations Seminar and Trade Show September 14-16 in San Jose, California.
Being prepared for the worst-case scenario can help alleviate the repercussions should a disaster occur, Clawson said. “When you have a fire of that magnitude, you don't have time to ask what to do,” he added.
The fire at the 15-acre site, whose cause has never been determined, destroyed the facility and resulted in the release of 1.4 million gallons of liquids.
In the aftermath, nearby schools were closed, homes were damaged, and a “huge” cleanup was required, Clawson said. Costs of the disaster have reached $24.31 million and “are still rolling,” he added.
Being prepared for such an incident requires extensive planning and good communication throughout the company. Identifying who will be in charge on site and giving that person the authority to perform the duties is essential, he said. There also must be a person authorized to distribute funds as needed, and the company's attorney should be immediately available to answer legal questions from governmental officials.
“Establish a spokesman for the press and pubic immediately,” he said. “And don't allow unauthorized employees to speculate about the circumstances of the incident.”
One of the most important responses should be to customers and suppliers in order to answer their questions and alleviate their concerns. Immediate action also requires bringing in environmental engineers who can evaluate the situation and respond to officials' questions. In addition, a person should be designated to interact with insurance investigators.
Other advice for response to an incident includes:
Place dikes around area, if necessary.
Provide food and drink to the public, press, and officials who may be on site.
Provide accommodations for people who have to be evacuated.
Be sure that security is in force to protect the area and control traffic.
Keep unauthorized people off the site.
Have someone designated who will contact utility companies.
Be sure needed personnel are available, such as those in production, operations, accounting.
Take bids from salvage companies, and do it fast.
Monitor the air.
Manage the use of attorneys and equipment.
If video is used during the event, give the tapes to the company attorney.
Watch for fake bills from companies.
When making plans to handle an incident:
Have a positive relationship and prior interaction with officials at local response agencies.
Be familiar with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.
Have company fire fighting and suppressions teams make an arrangement with neighboring companies in the event they are needed.
Store all insurance records and material safety data sheets off site.
Be sure that insurance policies have wide-ranging coverage.
Maintain a financial arrangement with two or more banks. (If inventory is used as assets for loans, the bank can shutdown all financial services, he said.)
Have maps of nearby streets, residential areas, and waterways that might be affected by a disaster.
Perform emergency drills with local law enforcement and emergency responders.
Document any asbestos on site.
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