Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on July 2, 2018.



Report: Police stopped medics from entering Parkland

As an armed teenager roamed the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February, gunning down fellow students in his path, paramedics who wanted to go inside and administer aid were stopped by police, according to a report released in May by the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department.

Deputy Fire Chief Michael McNally claims he asked six times for permission to send specialized teams of police officers and paramedics, known as rescue task forces (RTFs), into the school, where children lay bleeding and dying. But the police captain in charge of the scene kept saying no. “The [Broward Sheriff’s Office] incident commander advised me, ‘She would have to check,’” McNally wrote in the report. “After several minutes, I requested once again the need to deploy RTF elements into the scene to ... initiate treatment as soon as possible. Once again, the incident commander expressed that she ‘would have to check before approving this request.’”

Thirty-four people were shot in the Parkland shooting. Fifteen of them died at the school, and another two died later.

NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, was released May 1 and stresses, among many other steps, the need for a unified command and integrated response between police, fire, EMS, and hospitals during incidents like the Parkland shooting. This could include sending RTFs into a potentially dangerous, or warm area, to attend to victims. “If we don’t get a rescue task force in that warm area very soon, people are going to die,” Julie Downey, a Florida fire chief and NFPA 3000 technical committee member, told NFPA Journal in March. “Four to six, maybe seven minutes, if we can’t get in and they’re bleeding and someone inside hasn’t already initiated care, they’re going to die while we’re outside.”

Learn more about NFPA 3000 and read the NFPA Journal May/June cover story on the provisional standard online.

Chemical plants lack guidance for severe weather

The United States Chemical Safety Board has released its final investigation report on the Crosby, Texas, Arkema chemical plant fire that occurred after Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain on parts of the city last August. The report found that, in general, hazardous chemical plants in the U.S. lack guidance in planning for floods and other severe weather.

“As we prepare for this year’s hurricane season, it is critical that industry better understand the safety hazards posed by extreme weather events,” CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said. “Considering that extreme weather events are likely to increase in number and severity, the chemical industry must be prepared for worst case scenarios at their facilities. We cannot stop the storms, but working together, we can mitigate the damage and avoid a future catastrophic incident.”

The French-owned Arkema plant made headlines after flooding at the facility knocked out main and backup power to refrigerated tanks storing organic peroxides. Without cool temperatures to keep them stable, the chemicals broke down and caught fire.

NFPA Journal covered the Arkema incident and other petrochemical industry failures during Harvey in an article titled “In Harm’s Way” in its “Storm Season” package that appeared in the November/December 2017 issue.

Polaris fined record amount for not reporting fire risk

Polaris Industries, a leader in the manufacturing of recreational outdoor vehicles including ATVs and snowmobiles, agreed in April to pay a $27.25 million civil penalty to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for failing to immediately report that two of the company’s vehicle models were at risk of fire. It was reportedly the highest civil penalty payment ever made to the CPSC.

According to a statement from the CPSC, Polaris knew about a defect with its 2013 to 2016 RZR models but failed to report it before somebody was killed. “By the time Polaris did report the defect or risk, it had received reports of 150 fires, including one that resulted in the death of a 15-year-old passenger, 11 reports of burn injuries, and a fire that consumed 10 acres of land,” the statement said. Polaris also failed to immediately report a defect with its 2014 and 2015 Ranger models that caused dozens of fires, according to the CPSC.

Fire safety defects have been documented in earlier Polaris vehicle models as well. In 2014, an 11-year-old Texas girl was riding on the back of a 2010 Polaris Ranger when it flipped, pinning her underneath. The vehicle leaked gas and then caught fire, and the girl sustained severe burns, according to a lawsuit filed in 2016. The lawsuit said the vehicle lacked “an inexpensive device to stop gas from leaking out of the vent line.” The girl had to have her lower right leg and left foot amputated.

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: AP/Wide World