The incident that I chose happened on April 25, 2019, in Beach Park, Illinois. According to the National Transportation Safety Board report, on April 25, around 4.33 AM, approximately 750 gallons of anhydrous ammonia liquefied compressed gas from a nurse tank were released by accident (2019). The toxic ammonia gas is commonly used as a fertilizer, but its colorless appearance and quick dispersion present a significant danger to humans (Faisyah et al., 2020). The emergency response guidebook classifies anhydrous ammonia as a potential hazard due to its ability to explode if the material is highly concentrated in a confined space (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2016). The guidebook specifies that the first responders should be aware that tank cars could be used for transportation of solid materials as well as liquids or gases (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2016). Additionally, it is recommended to identify the hazardous material before initiating the emergency response.
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According to the materials of the report, the driver heard an air release sound from the tank and saw a gas cloud. However, the initial 911 call reported an automobile fire, which is why the first response personnel, the firefighters, were immediately exposed to anhydrous ammonia upon arrival. A hazardous material team later investigated the place and found a way to close the shutoff valve on the manifold, which stopped the release.
In the report on the event, Rispens et al. (2020) noted that the firefighter team was unaware of the hazmat incident due to miscommunication. Moreover, some team members did don the protective equipment after smelling ammonia, but the others did not (Rispens et al., 2019). The awareness-level guidelines from the textbook state that recognition of incidents is critical to initiating the response (Radvanovsky & McDougall, 2019). In this case, the responding firefighter’s personnel failed to estimate the possible threats from a call that reported an automobile fire or recognize an incident, which is the first level of the guideline. Moreover, the team failed to identify the threat after arrival. Further guidelines need improvement in the area of communication flow to improve future responses.
Fasiyah, A.F., Ardillah, Y., & Putri, D.A. (2020). Ammonia exposure among citizen living surrounding fertilizer factory. Advances in Health Sciences Research 25, 155-158.
National Transportation Safety Board. (2020). Anhydrous ammonia release from a nurse tank trailer. Web.
Radvanovsky, R.S. & McDougall, A. (2019). Critical infrastructure: Homeland security and emergency preparedness (4th edition). CRC Press.
Rispens, J. R., Jones, S. A., Clemmons, N. S., Ahmed, S., Harduar-Morano, L., Johnson, M. D., Edge, C., 3rd, Vyas, A., Bourgikos, E., & Orr, M. F. (2020). Anhydrous ammonia chemical release – Lake County, Illinois, 2019. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 69(4), 109–113.
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U.S. Department of Transportation; Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Transport Canada, Transports Canada, & Secretariat of Transport and Communications. (2016). 2016 Emergency response guidebook.