HAZMAT: Could it Happen to You?


This update includes a debrief on a hazardous materials tabletop that recently took place at a zoo including links to resources and materials that can assist other facilities concerned about that threat.   Information for free virtual trainings from the office of bombing protection, links to archival copies of NOAA’s 2017 Hurricane Awareness webinar series, and information on how to participate in a survey of preparedness in our industry currently being conducted by graduate students at the University of Chicago’s Threat and Response Management Program is also included. 

 

HAZMAT:  Could it Happen to You?

Rail lines, natural gas, and oil pipelines zigzag across this country.  Semi tankers carry millions of gallons of hazardous materials on our roadways daily.  If there should be a spill at a nearby rail yard, or a ruptured pipeline adjacent to your facility, are you prepared?  To evaluate their preparedness plans for just such an emergency, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium (OHDZA) teamed up with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to develop and host “HAZMAT at the Zoo”.  Spearheaded by the Zoo’s security team and veterinary departments, experienced exercise developers with NEMA drafted a realistic mass casualty/mass fatality based scenario for the facility.   The tabletop exercise simulated a toxic chemical leak at a rail yard adjacent to the Zoo on a crowded Saturday, with a resulting chemical cloud covering portions of the zoo and impacting staff, volunteers, visitors, and collections.  Exercise objectives tested Operational Communications, Coordination, Public Information and Warning, and more using the Incident Command System (ICS). The exercise was highly successful, and the zoo and responders both came away with ideas to improve their plans for HAZMAT events at the zoo.

 

The scenario included a wide range of representation from emergency response agencies and the zoological community, with final numbers exceeding 90 people!  The guest list included zoo staff, city and county first responders, state and federal agencies, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, and 3 other zoological facilities in the area.  While those facilities were not affected by the ‘virtual spill’, this represented a great opportunity to collaborate and share information across the industry, giving participants the ability to return to their own institution and develop or improve their own plan. Despite the robust attendance list, participants were still able to identify additional agencies they may need to connect with in this type of incident, such as local hospitals and the county coroner. Another area of improvement identified, was to provide examples of similar incidents and their response for future exercises.

 

Please see below for resources that may help you assess HAZMAT risks at your facility and prepare for a potential incident.  If you are thinking of developing your own tabletop exercise and would like more information, please email Ashley at the ZAHP Fusion Center who can provide you with additional resources as well as contact information for the OHDZA.

 

Resources:

 

Free Trainings and Resources

 

Enhanced North American Crisis Survey 2017

The ZAHP Fusion Center was recently contacted by a researcher looking to recreate the 1996 The North American Crisis Management Survey, conducted by William K. Baker, Kermit W. Seubert, and Patricia M. Hainley,  which looked to  “provide a statistical overview of how zoological facilities in North America prepare, train, and respond to crisis management situations”.   Please note that this new effort is not a ZAHP Fusion Center project.  However, we support the continued collection of data on emergency preparedness in our industry and look forward to information that may identify needs and aid in the development of future projects to improve all hazards planning for the exotic animal industry on the whole.  If you would like more information on the survey or are interested in participating follow this link https://uchicago.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bKuza0MEPXk3BTD . Any questions can be directed to the organizer at  chrisheck@uchicago.edu.