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Chemical Facility Readiness in Hurricane Season

Posted on 5/14/2024 by Lion Technology Inc.

Hurricane season is underway in the US. With storms increasing in strength and intensity, facilities that manufacture or store hazardous chemicals, face especially acute risks.

"Compared to the beginning of the 20th century, there are both stronger and more frequent abnormally heavy precipitation events across most of the United States."

Climate change impacts, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Chemical Facility Readiness in Hurricane Season 

When a storm hits a chemical facility, the consequences of a release, fire, or explosion caused can be devastating for those on site, and may even impact the surrounding community. To mitigate the risk to workers and locals, US facilities take extensive action to prepare for and prevent disaster.

Facilities should review emergency response and evacuation plans to ensure they are up to date with any changes at the site—a new building, a new chemical, a new process, etc. 

EPA Tips for Hurricane Season

To assist facilities in preparing for potential storms, EPA has released a "Hazardous Weather Release Prevention and Reporting" guidance, available here. 

In a May 9, 2024 press release titled "EPA Emergency Reponse Team Prepares for Hurricane Season, " EPA provided the following recommendations for chemical facility leaders: 

"Unlike some natural disasters, hurricanes and tropical storms are predictable and usually allow facilities to prepare for potential impacts. EPA reminds operators of some basic steps to prepare for hazardous weather:

  • Review procedures for shutting down processes and securing facilities appropriately—especially hazardous chemical storage—or otherwise implement appropriate safe operating procedures.

  • Review updated state-federal guidelines for flooding preparedness, https://response.epa.gov/sites/5083/files/RRT-6-Fact.Sheets.Compendium.pdf.

  • Assure all employees are familiar with requirements and procedures to contact the National Response Center in case a spill or release occurs.

  • Review local response contacts, including Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) and State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs). A list of these contacts by state is available here. "

US EPA. May 9, 2024 Press Release.

Chemical Facility Emergency Preparedness 

US regulatory programs that include emergency preparedness, contingency planning, and/or response provisions include, but are not limited to: OSHA's Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard and the HAZWOPER Standard, Risk Management Planning (RMP) under the Clean Air Act, EPCRA and CERCLA/Superfund inventory reporting and information sharing requirements, Clean Water Act pollution prevention rules.

When planning for a hurricane or any site emergency, consider collecting and reviewing more information than is required. Every detail gleaned can help to better protect the people on site, the community, and the integrity of the facility. 

Facility leaders, managers, and supervisors should continually assess the knowledge and confidence that team members exhibit during emergency response drills. These drills should include worst-case scenarios. Relevant training must be provided, refreshed, and updated as necessary to keep employees informed and prepared. This includes both training required by law and any additional or more targeted training needed by individual employees. 

Access hurricane and flooding preparedness resources on EPA's website.

A Worst-Case Scenario May Be Worse Than You Think

The US Chemical Safety Board's (CSB) video, Caught in the Storm: Extreme Weather Hazards, covers details about the 2017 Texas chemical plant fire that followed Hurricane Harvey, an event that demonstrates the importance of preparation for worst-case scenarios as well as understanding that flood maps for a given area can change over time.

In this video, CSB Investigator Mark Wingard offered a key insight: it is possible for a company performing a process hazard analysis to miss a flood's potential for creating process safety hazards because it is not required to consider information about the risk of flooding when analyzing hazards at a facility.

In recent years, severe rainfall has increased flooding around the country, and government experts project that this trend may continue. Companies should better understand how their facilities could be vulnerable and strengthen their plans for dealing with extreme weather such as floods or other natural disasters.

Vanessa Allen Sutherland, Former Chemical Safety Board Chairperson


What EPA Emergency Preparedness Rules Apply to Your Site?

Several US EPA programs include provisions related to emergencies involving hazardous chemicals, site preparedness, and contingency planning. That includes Risk Management Planning (RMP) under the Clean Air Act, EPCRA and CERCLA/Superfund reporting and information sharing requirements, and even a 2024 Clean Water Act rule mandating a Facility Response Plan or FRP for about 5,000 sites nationwide.

Get a clear picture of these EPA programs, including the emergency preparedness rules, when you attend the Complete Environmental Regulations webinar or complete the self-paced online course. Visit the course page to see the full Agenda, schedule, resources included, and more. 

For online training on individual EPA programs, visit Lion.com/EPA.

Tags: chemical industry, emergency preparedness

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