Jerome Sheldon, Jr, - (March 24 2006)
"...First, production, transport, and use of flammable, explosive or toxic chemicals have grown significantly in both developing and developed countries. Second, greater and more centralized productions have increased the quantities of chemicals manufactured and the distances across which they are transported throughout the country. Third, in a country like ours, population growth nearer to chemical plants and along transportation routes means that there are large communities in great number at high risk following a chemical accident. With this background let us look at issue for actions with respect to chemical disaster management in our backyard...”
I Have Solutions for Potential Hazardous Chemical Disasters In Liberia. At the recent Town Hall Meeting hosting by the United States Institute of Peace, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia in Washington, DC, in honored to host Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, on the first official visit to the United States, I made a promise to President Sirleaf to provide my services free to the Liberian Government and I intend to keep it because I could not, I will not, I can not betray her trust and the Liberian people.
Major emergencies and disasters, natural or chemical releases, have occurred across the globe and as the population grows and resources become more limited, communities are increasingly vulnerable to the hazards that cause disasters. Emergencies and disasters do not affect only health and well being; frequently large number of people are displaced, killed or injured or subjected to a greater risk of epidemic. The risks of accidental chemical releases escalate as a number of new hazardous substances are produced.
First, production, transport, and use of flammable, explosive or toxic chemicals have grown significantly in both developing and developed countries.
Second, greater and more centralized productions have increased the quantities of chemicals manufactured and the distances across which they are transported throughout the country.
Third, in a country like ours, population growth nearer to chemical plants and along transportation routes means that there are large communities in great number at high risk following a chemical accident. With this background let us look at issue for actions with respect to chemical disaster management in our backyard.
I’m sure a national policy is in place for disaster management but the ownership is lacking and there has been no political pressure for total implementation to construct good roads and highways, create facilities for rapid mode of transportation, earmark areas for evacuation of population, networked ambulance services with global positioning system including air ambulance services, radio communication, and inter-sector co-ordination amongst governmental agencies.
Lack of action or slow development on the above issues at all levels results into an unprepared society for natural or chemical calamities. The fact that there are no effective legislations for control of transportation and storage of hazardous chemicals and many small-scale chemical industries causing pollution and threatening to spill off an emergency compound the problem.
The lack of manpower in surveillance agencies also increases the risk of dangerous events of chemical release. Now coming closer to on-site-related issues in hazardous industries, many of them especially small-scale and medium-sized industries have no document of an “on-site disaster management plan” in place and in many large industries it is only on paper. This kind of unprepareness would result in a serious outcome for the site and also to the community.
As prewritten protocol, mock drills are required to be conducted periodically; however, they are not seriously practiced, which contributes to unprepared status and results in poor and chaotic response in the event of an emergency. Pre-disaster planning, preventive maintenance, training, and education of people for emergency response services, anticipation of fallouts and continuous planning are only means to overcome such events quickly. Emerging issues of global threat by terrorists, nuclear proliferation, biological weapons, and chemical warfare pose different kinds of challenges to deal with, which requires global strategy, intelligence sharing, political will and international co-operation on matters of security.
This is necessary to prevent such attacks and develop public health and safety to response to minimize the impact. This article has not only surfaced some of the issues related to chemical disaster management requiring action from various agencies, but also aim to provide scope for introspection of the current status and some futuristic scenarios that need to be addressed now.
I am sure that this article will also provide an impetus for the Government and other connected agencies who will effectively network on the issues and actions related to chemical disaster management and I am also available for assistance.
About the Author:
Jerome Sheldon, Jr, Hazardous Minimization Program manager for the United States Government at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, GA under the Department of Homeland Security, Jerome.sheldon@Associates.dhs.gov