Free cloud service helps first responders deal with chemical hazards

Fri, 2014-10-17 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

As first responders arrive at emergencies involving hazardous chemicals, they have to make fast decisions about how they handle the situation and its victims. A new cloud-based service will help ensure they get more detailed and accurate information faster.

Plan 1, a new service from MSDSonline, brings the technical information about various chemical hazards online, allowing first responders to review the information as they’re driving to or arriving on the scene.

The lack of accurate and detailed information has been a critical issue for first responders, an issue that has received more attention after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas last year that killed 14 people, wounded more than 200 others, and destroyed or damaged 700 homes.

While lax oversight received much of the blame for the incident, which federal investigators say was completely preventable, the volunteer firefighters arriving on the scene were ill-prepared. The subsequent investigation found that not only did the firefighters not know of the chemical hazards, their Emergency Response Guidebook contained vague and misleading directions that only made the hazard worse.

Companies are required to keep information about the hazardous materials on their premises for regulatory and safety reasons, and the cloud-based Plan 1 makes that information much easier to access. Those that use other services from MSDSonline to keep track of chemicals and the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) that are associated with them can now share all that information with first responders.

The information that can be shared includes an inventory of all the chemicals they have on hand, the associated MSDS sheets that contain all the safety information that pertains to those chemicals, and facility floor plans and chemical container maps.

The service is free for first responders. MSDSonline thinks it will help agencies develop better and more detailed plans to respond to emergencies, as well as improving the safety of those responding to incidents.

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