Dennis Cruise of the Virginia Propane Gas Association presented recently on best practices when responding to propane-related emergencies.
The talk was given at the annual conference of the Virginia chapters of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO). NENA and APCO assist telecommunicators with sharing information, and sharing and updating best practices.
A member of the group saw Stuart Flatow, vice president of safety and training at the Propane Education & Research Council, present on the subject and expressed interest in having a similar talk given at its spring conference. Since the conference was being held in Virginia Beach, Cruise, a native Virginian who also represents Propane Training Services LLC, presented.
Cruise focused on the importance of preplanning for emergency situations involving propane. He used the 2007 Ghent, West Virginia, tragedy as the focal point of his presentation, showing attendees the video “Half an Hour to Tragedy.” The video, produced by the Chemical Safety Board, highlights what went wrong in the half-hour between when a propane leak was reported and when the subsequent explosion occurred.
Before showing the video, Cruise gave a short introduction on the importance of communicating, sharing information and preplanning. The video was then used to illustrate what can happen when those actions aren’t done properly.
After watching the video, the group discussed its own policies. According to Cruise, attendees were open about sharing their processes and how information is normally collected.
“They would then ask questions about what they should be gathering, and we would share that with them. It just went in an open discussion format once we got into the subject,” Cruise says.
The presentation brought up training issues that Cruise feels should be shared with all personnel. For example, according to Cruise, many responders don’t know that all metered delivery propane bobtails are required to have a remote shut-off that must be effective up to 150 ft. from the truck.
Cruise says this should be general knowledge among responders because, “There could be some situations where you would want to shut the truck down and say 150 ft. away. Yet responders still aren’t aware. That’s just not information that is being shared. Or there hasn’t been an avenue to share it. What we’re doing is creating an avenue to share information.”
According to Cruise, giving presentations and sharing information is the key to improving how communication officials respond to propane-related incidents. These individuals are the first link in the response process and must be included in the development of response strategy.
“Establishing those relationships with responders is important because we do have small incidents, but with the correct response they remain small,” Cruise says. “Having training helps us handle those quickly and effectively. It’s just opening communication avenues.”