Once dispatched to the scene of a hazardous waste scene, the following would be my course of action in making the area safer:
- It is first important to identify the type of chemical or hazardous waste that is exposed and let out of its containment. The first means of identification would be through the sense of smell since most toxic products typically have distinct odors within the vicinity of the incident. Through the representative odor thresholds’ table, the any toxic materials present in the incident’s location can be easily ascertained. Placards on the vehicle transporting the materials, labels on the packages or containers of the materials or on the shipping papers in possession of the individuals transporting the materials, can be used to identify presence of hazardous waste. The placards, labels ad shipping papers, will contain the identification of the presence of any hazardous waste in transit, their hazard class and division according to the U.S. Department of Transport classification. Viewing of placards and labeling should be done using binoculars far from the scene of the incident because, any unidentified toxic waste may cause harm to an individual on exposure.
- First on the scene are usually the local emergency agency agents, followed by state agencies in cases of state significance then agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation in cases of national significance. These response units, especially local agencies, are very helpful in providing information concerning the extent of the harmful waste incident with respect to the location. Corporation between the various agencies on site should be fluid, in order to mitigate any toxic incident and any further damage to the environment or people. Flow of information is crucial together with an understanding of control over the situation depending on the magnitude of the incident, flowing from national agencies down to the local agencies. Presence of different professionals is important, health agencies for providing first aid and medical care to exposed victims, environmental agencies to provide an environmental impact assessment by the harmful waste and the police evacuate and keep the scene free of disturbance for the other agencies to operate.
- Before any action plan is undertaken a risk assessment should be conducted. Depending on the type of toxic wastes involved, it should be ascertained if they can cause harm for sure, or if they probably can cause harm. This information helps in developing a conducive and safe plan to handle the incident and waste involved. What kind of chemicals should be determined and what are their physical properties, what kind of container they are in and what condition the containers are in and finally what caused the damage if any.
- The local emergency response teams should respond to an incident depending on the terrain in the area and the weather conditions. This information can be obtained from local institutions to assist in, determining how fast the damage may spread and in what direction in helping to pre-plan in containing the harmful substance from reaching unaware citizens. They should alert well trained and equipped agencies, depending on the type of incident.
- Regular training, planning and exercises are important both to emergency response agencies and facility employees, which helps in reducing casualties and fast containment in case of spillage or related incidences.
- Through planning and training reference materials during emergencies such as, facility security plans and contingent plans are available to help during toxic accidents when there is panic.