Texas officials earn positive feedback on AN facility education tour

06 March 2014 21:32 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Trying to raise public awareness on ammonium nitrate (AN) and the best practices for first responders, Texas's State Fire Marshal Office (SFMO) has launched a 68-stop tour of Texas counties that so far has resulted in positive feedback, the agency said on Thursday.  

Following the 17 April 2013 blast at West Fertilizer in West, Texas, the SFMO has been trying to make a concerted effort to prevent a repeat of the deadly accident.

A main part of this effort has been the agency’s public meetings, which are emphasising the potential dangers of AN and how local communities and officials can be better prepare and possibly avoid future deadly accidents.

At this time, seven meetings have been held and SFMO spokesperson Rachel Moreno said that there will be 61 more sessions held before the end of December.

“State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy continues to travel across Texas to communities with ammonium nitrate storage facilities to provide information on ammonium nitrate awareness and best practices to first responders, community members, ammonium nitrate facility staff and others. The SFMO has received very positive feedback from communities where these meetings have occurred,” Moreno said.

Connealy agreed that the feedback has been very supportive and said that the meetings have provided communities with an overview of what happened during the West Fertilizer explosion.

“It allows the attendees to have a better understanding of the explosion and the product. The last phase of the meeting encouraging first responders to make sure they evaluate risk versus gain before implementing operations at a facility with ammonium nitrate plus other typical scenarios that kill fire fighters hopefully will prevent future line-of-duty deaths,” Connealy said.

“When we follow best practices, it is hard to get in trouble," he added. "Educating business owners, first responders, local officials and citizens about the events that happened in West and encouraging compliance with best practices can only help to make sure this never happens again.”

Hoping to provide the public with more information on AN, the SFMO in November 2013 launched an online map that shows facilities in Texas that are either producing or holding AN in volumes of 10,000 lbs or more. There are 115 locations that meet that threshold.

The explosion and fire at West Fertilizer killed 12 emergency responders and two civilians, injured more than 200 residents of the nearby town and caused an estimated $230m worth of damage in the area.

In an update on its investigation into the accident, Moreno said the agency’s own review is not complete yet and that presently interviews and scientific testing of evidence were still being conducted.

By Mark Milam