Drilling for hazmat safety

June 1, 2009
Schneider National builds public/private ER training partnerships

It was every tank fleet manager's nightmare. A chemical transport rolled over on its side in an urban area, and a hazardous material was leaking from the pressure-relief vent on top. Emergency responders had to act quickly to prevent a catastrophe.

Fortunately, this incident was just a training drill, and the leaking product was nothing more than water. The event was organized by Schneider National Inc and Brown County Hazardous Materials Response Team, which serves Green Bay, Wisconsin. The drill took place in September 2008.

“This was the third time that we had participated in a hazmat drill with the Brown County Hazardous Materials Response Team,” says Stephen F Torres, Schneider National Bulk Carriers (SNBC) safety director. “Each time, we've tried to organize a more realistic and effective training drill that avoids textbook scenarios. The focus for the 2008 program was on bulk shipments.”

The September 2008 drill consisted of three scenarios — the tanker rollover with leak, a leaking parked trailer, and a simulated collision between a car and chemical transport that resulted in a product release. Participants included 10 Schneider National Bulk employees and 15 to 20 emergency responders.

“These drills are very important to us, Torres says. “They give us a chance to work with the people who would respond in a real emergency situation. Most of the fire departments and other agencies that respond to hazmat incidents have no training equipment like tank trailers. We can never have too many drills. At the least, we'd like to do two a year.”

David Siegel, training officer with the Brown County Hazardous Materials Response Team, praises Schneider National Bulk for conducting a very realistic drill. The situations that confronted responders were very similar to what they would encounter in real life.

Cullen Peltier, director of Brown County Emergency Management, adds that cooperation between businesses and community emergency officials is important. It takes a broad effort to respond to a disaster and get the community back to normal after the event. Response drills help ensure a quicker, more effective recovery.

Schneider National Bulk would like to expand its emergency response training effort to other areas where the company has tank truck terminals, according to Torres. In addition, to Green Bay, the carrier bases tank truck equipment in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Texas, and Louisiana.

“We've done some work with emergency responders in Houston (Texas) on hurricane preparedness,” Torres says. “They wanted to know our employee return priority for our Houston terminal, and they discussed their protocols that determined who could go back into an area after a hurricane and when. We also worked with our customers to gain a better understanding of their hurricane plans.

“All of that really paid off last September after Hurricane Ike hit the Houston-Galveston area. We knew what to expect, and we were prepared. One customer even loaned us a generator set that enabled us to get our wash rack back in operation just two days after the hurricane.”