I like to start out my 8-hr Emergency Management course with an exercise that demonstrates the vast differences in how a public FD plans for emergencies and how an industrial business should be planning.  Many do not realize the vast differences in how these two entities differ when it comes to emergency planning and response.  This opening exercise usually sets the tone for the next 7.5 hours of instruction...

Start off by asking the facility to produce their annual Tier II reports.  In these reports, they will have listed all their Hazardous and Extremely Hazardous Substances that exceed the reporting threshold, their means of storage, their locations, and their primary hazards, and quantities.  Ask the group why does EPA require these annual reports?  What benefit are they intended to provide and to what groups are they intended to benefit?  The answers are quite simple:  Us and the local responders.

This is what separates a fixed industrial facility from our local fire departments... we are suppose to know the Hazardous and Extremely Hazardous Substances we have site, their means of storage, their locations, and their primary hazards, and quantities we could have on hand.  With this information we can then develop site specific emergency response plans for these substances based on their means of storage, their locations, and their primary hazards, and quantities.

Now consider your a County Hazardous Materials Coordinator or the County/Parish Emergency Coordinator and the County Judge or some government official ask you to write a plan that would cover ALL the Hazardous and Extremely Hazardous Substances that may pass through the county, their means of transport, their travel routes, and their primary hazards, and quantities... what would you do?  Could anyone actually do this?

This is the difference... at a fixed industrial facility we can (and are suppose to) CONTROL ALL Hazardous and Extremely Hazardous Substances that enter our property.  We also control their means of storage, their locations, and their primary hazards, and quantities we could have on hand.  A public Fire Department/County/City may be able to control the routes certain HAZMATs take through their community, but trying to write a specific plan for each location within the community which includes their means of transport, their travel routes, and their primary hazards, and quantities at each specific location would be virtually impossible.  Trust me I have tried it several times and it just can not be that specific!

So for a fixed industrial facility that contains Tier II reportable Hazardous and Extremely Hazardous Substances, OSHA and EPA have an expectation that there will be a WRITTEN PLAN to address emergency responses for these facility-specific Hazardous and Extremely Hazardous Substances.  Now OSHA and EPA have given businesses the option of either having an on-site response team or utilizing an off-site response team; however, regardless of this decision, there is an expectation in 1910.120(q) that a response to one of these materials at the fixed industrial facility (where there is CONTROL over the substances on site, their means of storage, their locations, and their primary hazards, and quantities) is performed per a WRITTEN RESPONSE PLAN specific to these Hazardous and Extremely Hazardous Substances. 

When we enter the realm of PSM/RMP thresholds (e.g. much larger thresholds than those in EPCRA TPQ) we really see a distinct need for a chemical specific RESPONSE PLAN(s).  Remember, our PSM/RMP chemicals are also EPCRA listed chemicals and in reality we should have had a plan (either for on-site responders or Off-site responders) even before PSM/RMP came along.  But now OSHA and EPA have it easy to demonstrate the need for a chemical specific plan as we can have thousands of pounds of these Highly Hazardous Chemicals (HHC is the term used in PSM) or Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS is the term used in RMP).  

Here are a couple of common arguments that get presented to us during audits/investigations:

Argument #1

One of the more popular arguments we get from clients is that "Chemical X is the same here as it is over on the other side of the plant, so a general response plan can cover Chemical X".  When in reality:

  • Chemical X in Unit 1 is @ 100% concentration (e,g, anhydrous) and Chemical X on the other side of the plant is @ 20% concentration. 
  • the quantity of Chemical X in Unit 1 is 20,000 pounds and the quantity of Chemical X (@ 20%) on the other side of the plant is 1,000,000 pounds
  • Chemical X in Unit 1 is stored as a liquified pressurized gas and Chemical X on the other side of the plant is stored in an atmospheric refrigerated storage tank
  • Chemical X in Unit 1 is protected by a fixed deluge system but no diking and Chemical X on the other side of the plant is protected by diking but no deluge system

So yes, "Chemical X" may have the same "slang" or "general name", but in fact they have different Chemical Abstract Numbers (CAS#) and different technical names; which also means they will have different exposure limits, PPE needs, decon needs, etc.  So yes, we have "Chemical X" on site and when we look at our Tier II sheets we will quickly recognize that "Chemical X" is actually two (2) different chemicals with completely different properties and hazards and will behave very differently when released from their primary containment!  So yes, we would need two (2) plans for our "Chemical X".


Argument #2

We use the "DOT Emergency Response Guide" (ERG) as our Emergency Response Plan.  This is another example of how public responders will differ from a fixed facility ER management system.  But let me say this up front... the DOT Emergency Response Guide was NEVER EVER intended to be an "Emergency Response Plan" used by responders who will take action BEYOND that which is defined as AWARENESS LEVEL.  The ERG was written for those responders who would be first on scene and are taking DEFENSIVE ACTIONS within the first 10-15 minutes of their arrival.  In essence, the guide was written for law enforcement personnel who arrive at a transportation accident involving a HAZMAT.  In fact, the very first line on the cover of the ERG states:

A guidebook intended for use by first responders during the initial phase of a transportation incident involving dangerous goods/hazardous materials (emphasis added by me)

And on the back of the ERG we find the following "disclaimer:


So bottom line, the DOT ERG is not a replacement for a written Emergency Response Plan (ERP) that would comply with the written requirements found in 1910.120(q)(2) for either a private response team or even a public Fire Department.  It can be used to supplement the ERP.  I especially like the Initial Isolation and Protective Distances data and train my industrial clients to uses these tables to establish their HOT and WARM zones, as I can assure you that when the Local FD arrives (whether you called them or someone else called them) they will be pulling out their copy of the ERG and using these distances!  Actually in this day and age, the responders will be using WISER, which has the ability to map the ERG Initial Isolation and Protective Distances over Bing Maps so they can clear see the areas OFF-SITE that need to be notified of the incident and instructed what actions to take.


 bing erg

So in closing, a Public Fire Department's emergency response plan will differ greatly than that of a Fixed Facility's plan.  And although BOTH groups are essentially guided by OSHA's HAZWOPER standard (e.g. 40 CFR PART 311—WORKER PROTECTION) the fixed facility which can CONTROL the substances on site, their means of storage, their locations, and their quantities is required to have a specific and WRITTEN plan for responding to those chemicals.

1910.120(q)(1) Emergency response plan. An emergency response plan shall be developed and implemented to handle anticipated emergencies prior to the commencement of emergency response operations. The plan shall be in writing and available for inspection and copying by employees, their representatives and OSHA personnel. Employers who will evacuate their employees from the danger area when an emergency occurs, and who do not permit any of their employees to assist in handling the emergency, are exempt from the requirements of this paragraph if they provide an emergency action plan in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.38.

1910.120(q)(2) Elements of an emergency response plan. The employer shall develop an emergency response plan for emergencies which shall address, as a minimum, the following areas to the extent that they are not addressed in any specific program required in this paragraph:



1910.120(q)(2)(iii) Emergency recognition and prevention.

Here is OSHA's expectations for meeting (q)(2)(iii)...

Taken from OSHA's CPL 02-02-073, Inspection Procedures for 29 CFR 1910.120 and 1926.65, Paragraph (q): Emergency Response to Hazardous Substance Releases (page 21)

Inspection Guidelines. The ERP must define the types of releases that could potentially require an emergency response and should define what types of releases would not be an emergency, or, in other words, what may be handled as an incidental release.  The ERP should include an inventory of the hazardous substances found on site, the manner in which they are stored, and the consequences of an uncontrolled release. Scenarios or circumstances that trigger activation of the ERP should be described for the various hazardous substances stored on site that
have the potential to cause an emergency. Reasonably predictable worst-case scenarios must be identified in the planning phase.  

(2) Citation Guidelines. If the ERP does not define the types of releases or emergencies that could potentially require an emergency response, cite (q)(2)(iii).

(emphasis added by me)

So there we have it, the differences of what a fixed facility should have in place and how this will differ from a public response agency like a local FD.  And I want to end with this last "note" that seems to always be used as the "get out of jail free" card ...

1910.120(q)(2)(xii)  states the following:

Emergency response organizations may use the local emergency response plan or the state emergency response plan or both, as part of their emergency response plan to avoid duplication. Those items of the emergency response plan that are being properly addressed by the SARA Title III plans may be substituted into their emergency plan or otherwise kept together for the employer and employee's use.

This OSHA requirement does NOT allow a fixed facility to use the local or state response as a "replacement" for a site-specific response plan; ONLY to supplement the plan so as to reduce any duplication that may exist between the plans.


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