30 September 2013 22:54 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--In an effort to raise public awareness, the State Fire Marshal Office (SFMO) is launching an online map by November that will list fertilizer facilities in Texas that are either producing or holding ammonium nitrate in volumes of 10,000lb (4,500kg) or more, the agency said on Monday.
Following the 17 April blast at West Fertilizers in West, Texas, which killed 14 and injured 200, the state agency has been trying to make an effort to ensure there is not a repeat of the deadly accident.
In the aftermath, state officials were criticised over what was perceived as a lack of oversight of facilities and plants that are involved with handling volatile chemicals and fertilizers.
The SFMO said the first step was to identify all similar facilities that had ammonium nitrate, and it discovered that there are 115 locations that had met the threshold of 10,000lb or more of the fertilizer product. Combining various data, the agency is putting the final touches on an online site, where users can type a zip code and retrieve an icon showing if a facility is located within that region.
SFMO spokesperson Rachel Moreno said if the icon appears, then users can click on it and be provided information that will allow them to contact their local fire department. The name of the operation and its address will not appear or be included primarily as a safeguard against the information being used by those who could possible perpetrate criminal activity.
“It draws a line between providing information to the public and giving information to those who might want to do bad things,” said Moreno. “What we are trying to do is make sure that this doesn’t happen again and that the communities know what is there and how to be prepared.”
Moreno said the work on the online site is roughly 98% completed, and it is expect to be launched on or before 1 November. She said in addition, the agency plans to start in December conducting visits with local first responders and government officials in the counties where the facilities are located to better prepare them for dealing with any emergencies.
There are 81 counties in Texas where these sessions will be held, and the agency hopes to complete this project by the end of 2014, Moreno said. The SFMO intends on giving insight and training on such topics as fire fighting techniques, blast zone estimates and how to generally increase public safety in the event of a fire or explosion involving ammonium nitrate.
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