Jan 1, 2002 12:00 PM
AT A TIME when national attention is keenly focused on the security of hazardous materials, the Spill Center, a company specializing in hazmat incident management, has introduced an integrated communications system that can save critical time during hazmat emergencies. Combining satellite-tracking technology, wireless communications, and online access to specialized databases, the system will enable public responders and companies having care, custody, and control of hazardous materials to make better decisions in the management of spills, according to Tom Moses, an environmental attorney and Spill Center president.
Spill Center has applied for a patent on the new Electronic Emergency Response Management System. Based on Spill Center's proprietary online spill management system and extensive databases, the system offers spill generators and responders fast access to information needed to expedite response and remediation of hazmat spills.
“At no time in our country's history has the need been greater to plan and work diligently to make better response and remediation resources available more quickly,” Moses says. He has written a white paper about the system entitled, “New Technology and Systems for Emergency Response in an Era of Counterterrorism.” The paper is available at no charge from the Spill Center.
The system was demonstrated for the first time during a recent hazardous materials training conference conducted by the Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration. Participants included fleet safety managers, emergency responders, and law enforcement personnel.
As part of the demonstration, representatives from wireless messaging companies discussed how satellite tracking and wireless communications are able to tie into Spill Center's Electronic Emergency Response Management System. Spill Center personnel demonstrated electronic spill reporting systems and technologies, online contingency planning capabilities, and response management systems.
Wireless systems enable a driver to send an instant alert. Routed electronically, the message would be received at Spill Center, which would notify emergency responders, providing the exact location of the vehicle and additional details as they become known. Vehicle tracking technology also could be configured to determine if a hazmat delivery has been delayed or a route changed for some unexplained reason.
To demonstrate the benefits for emergency responders in Massachusetts, the Spill Center developed a prototypical system that includes a specialized database for emergency equipment inventories. The system can locate emergency response units in real time and facilitate communication and coordination for first responders and law enforcement officials. An assessment can be made as to which units are available to respond to a particular incident in the quickest time.
“We can enable every fire service and hazmat response company in the Commonwealth to go online, identify themselves, complete a survey about their response capabilities, and list their equipment inventories,” Moses says. “Each response unit would be equipped with an onboard transponder that emits a unique, identifiable signal to track its location. A computergenerated map would show where the units are at all times. We'll keep track of the location of all this equipment throughout Massachusetts and enable emergency responders to search the databases when they need assistance or additional equipment.”
One Spill Center database has the names of nearly 4,000 qualified cleanup contractors throughout North America. Each listing provides the contractor's statement of qualifications, equipment list, fee schedule, insurance certificate, and transportation references. Another Spill Center database contains local, state, and federal reporting requirements for hazardous materials incidents.
As part of the nationwide effort to improve hazardous materials security, local and state regulatory agencies are becoming stricter about enforcement of spill notification requirements, according to Moses. Texas requires spill generators to report incidents within one hour of a spill. A county in Ohio has a 30-minute reporting requirement. Transporters sometimes don't find out these requirements until a notice arrives by mail stating the company is in violation for failure to report.
When Spill Center is notified of a hazmat spill, such as diesel fuel, a compliance associate activates the client's prefiled spill contingency plan, which is a set of detailed claimhandling instructions that are customized to meet the client's individual requirements. The contingency plan indicates which people in the client organization are to be notified. It also triggers the appropriate internal and external reports and lists preferred contractors.
Because time is of the essence when an emergency occurs, the Spill Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for spill generators and responders. Spill generators notify the Spill Center by telephone or via the Internet. Calls also come in through Chemtrec.
“With the addition of our new electronic system, we can offer even more tools for managing response and remediation,” Moses says. “This gives government agencies access to resources they need, while providing industry the level of control they want to limit liability and minimize damages to valuable equipment and cargoes.”
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