Friday, October 11, 2013

Ammonium Nitrate (AN): Safe Storage, Handling, & Management Part 3

Community Emergency Planning

What should communities do to understand and develop a plan for the risk associated with AN?

AN is a hazardous chemical covered under the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. Therefore, facilities that handle and store AN are required by law to submit information regarding chemical hazards (including AN) to their State or Tribal Emergency Response Commission (SERC or TERC), Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), and local fire department. This information must include the following:

1) a Safety Data Sheets (SDS) providing the chemical’s hazard information and emergency response guidelines and
2) a Hazardous Chemical Inventory form that provides the quantity, storage types and locations of the AN at their facility.

We recommend that fire services visit any facility reporting AN, and that the conditions of storage and manner of handling be reviewed by fire service personnel. Fire service and other emergency responders should take note of the specific location(s), amounts and packaging of stored AN. Conditions of storage should be reviewed with the facility operator in light of the information provided in this document.

The LEPC in conjunction with the fire department should use this information to develop an emergency plan, in case of a fire or explosion involving AN or any other hazardous substance. The facility should consult with the LEPC to provide them the necessary information to develop the emergency plan, the elements of which should include:

• Identification of facilities and transportation routes of hazardous substances
• Description of emergency response procedures, on and off site
• Designation of a community coordinator and facility emergency coordinator(s) to implement the plan
Outline of emergency notification procedures
• Description of how to determine the probable area and population affected by releases
• Description of local emergency equipment and facilities and the persons responsible for them
• Outline of evacuation plans
• A training program for emergency responders (including schedules)
• Methods and schedules for exercising emergency response plans

LEPCs should also ensure that members of the community (which would include potentially affected populations) are aware of the emergency plan and the actions they need to take if an accident occurs.

Local fire departments should use the information to determine what precautions they may need to take in responding to an accident at the facility and ensure the first responders have the appropriate training to respond to incidents involving AN.

Owners and operators of facilities holding AN are required to report the AN hazard to local response officials under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Unfortunately, that obligation is not universally understood, and so some facilities may fail to report. Fertilizer-grade AN is typically found at those businesses that provide direct logistical support to agriculture. This may include crop service operations, farm co-ops, grange stores and similar operations.

In the interest of community safety, it is often necessary and appropriate for first response officials to reach out to facility owners and operators, and determine if unreported risks are present in their community. Helping a neighbor, facility operator, or employer to understand and meet his obligations to the community and to workers is in everyone’s best interest

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