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Advance planning gives edge for handling highway incidents

“IT'S NOT the way it's supposed to be, and somebody needs to fix it now.” That's Mike Callan's definition of a highway trucking incident.

Callan, a former captain with the Wallingford, Connecticut Fire Department, made the comment at the National Association of Chemical Distributors Operations Seminar in Kansas City, Kansas. He offered practical response tips for companies to develop before accidents happen.

“Keep it simple,” he said. “And practice for the real thing.”

The ability to respond immediately to an accident gives a company an advantage. If a spill has occurred, damage can be controlled. “As bad as it is on the street, it's 100 times worse in the drain,” he said.

Drivers who are well-trained to handle actions at the scene can save time by being familiar with the product they are hauling. They can alert the company and provide information to law enforcement and emergency responders at the scene.

Callan recommended that companies provide drivers with simple instructions for what they are to do at the scene. The instructions should be no longer than one page and should be carried in the cab. A Department of Transportation emergency response guide book also should be at hand to define the properties of various products.

“The driver must control the scene,” he said. Drivers should be trained to be cautious near the product, to establish a perimeter, and work with the responders in the staging area.

Equipment on trucks should include yellow caution tape and emergency cones for indicating the restricted area. Drivers should have personal protective equipment readily available — and know when and how to wear it.

“Each incident is different,” Callan said. “Give the driver some decision-making authority. Don't assume that the fire department knows what to do.”

The first thing to be determined at the site is if the situation is life-threatening and the proper response to take. Incident stabilization and property conservation are the next consideration, which may call for product control or containment.

When the driver has been relieved at the scene, he or she should file a report as soon as possible after the incident.

Finally, Callan recommended that a critique with the driver follow every incident so that adjustments can be made in the overall plan to improve the procedures.

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